By Stephen Elliott, courtesy The Dispatch
A federal dog fighting investigation Thursday resulted in two arrests and more than 60 dogs being seized in the Quad-Cities.
Rock Island Police Chief Jeffrey VenHuizen said 11 federal search warrants were executed Thursday in Rock Island and Davenport as part of an on-going investigation related to dog fighting, narcotics and a firearm.
A news release from Rock Island Deputy Chief of Police Jason Foy said the investigation began about a year ago based on information developed by Rock Island Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation Quad Cities Federal Gang Task Force.
Two Rock Island men, Ryan M. Hickman, 41, and Willie Jackson, 34, were arrested Thursday in connection with the investigation. Mr. Hickman has been charged with possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, a Class 1 felony, and possession of a controlled substance, a Class 4 felony.
Mr. Jackson was charged with unlawful possession of cannabis, a Class 4 felony.
Rock Island County State’s Attorney John McGehee said there are a myriad of animal abuse charges — felony and misdemeanor offenses — that are possible under Illinois law.
Starting at about 6 a.m. Thursday, 10 search warrants were executed in Rock Island and one in Davenport. According to the police news release, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is assisting with this operation and is transporting the animals to a temporary shelter where they will provide care for the animals until custody is determined.
At least 14 ASPCA members were seen at the Rock Island Police Station Thursday afternoon, standing outside. A truck and trailer with dogs inside was parked on the street.
ASPCA members outside the police station would not comment, but the group issued a news release Thursday afternoon saying it helped authorities remove 64 pit bulls from multiple properties.
“Responders discovered dogs tethered on heavy chains and training devices consistent with dog fighting,” the release stated. The dogs will receive “medical attention and behavioral enrichment” by ASPCA veterinarians, behaviorists and responders, the release stated.
“The level of brutality we continue to see in organized dog fighting rings is profoundly troubling,” said Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response. “We’re relieved these animals have finally been removed from this cycle of violence.”
On its website, the ASPCA states fighting dogs may have their ears cropped and tails docked close to their bodies “to minimize the animal’s normal body language cues and to limit areas that another dog can grab during a fight.” Fighters usually perform the cropping/docking themselves “using crude and inhumane techniques,” according to the site.
Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states but, according to the ASPCA, it occurs throughout the country “in every type of community.”
Multiple agencies are involved in the Quad-Cities dog fighting investigation.
Along with Rock Island Police and the FBI, the investigation has included the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the federal Drug Enforcement Agency, Illinois State Police, the Rock Island County State’s Attorney’s and Sheriff’s offices, the Quad City Metropolitan Enforcement Group, Moline Police, East Moline Police, Davenport Police and the Scott County Sheriff’s Department.
Rock Island Police said the investigation is ongoing.