Six Montgomery and Central Alabama officials were honored Tuesday by the Human Society of the United States for their commitment to enforcing animal protection laws.
The honorees each received the 2013 Humane Law Enforcement Award for their collaborative effort in taking down the second largest dog fighting organization in the country last year.
Honorees were Clark Morris Jr., Assistant U.S. Attorney, Middle District of Alabama; George L. Beck Jr., U.S Attorney, Middle District of Alabama; two undercover special agents with the FBI, Montgomery Office; one undercover Auburn Police Department detective who is assigned to the FBI Safe Street Task Force; and Keith Baker, investigator for the Alabama Attorney General's Office.
The two special agents and one detective were unable to attend in order to protect their undercover identities.
Mindy Gilbert, the Alabama state director for USHS gave the honorees her appreciation, adding how difficult such cases are to solve.
"I am so grateful to these agencies because I understand the difficulty required for such undercover work. Many cases do not get solved," Gilbert said.
"Dog fighting occurs in every county in Alabama," Gilbert added. "People who engage in this activity travel here to participate. The laws we have in place here show that we will not tolerate such behaviors."
Last year, 13 locations in Alabama and Georgia were raided after undercover work determined dog fighting activities were taking place there.
After months of investigations, state officials seized 458 pit-bull terriers in August along with guns and illegal drugs used to treat and train dogs for the sport.
Morris, who said she was there when teams came to break up the criminal activity, described the conditions the dogs were found in.
"Most of them were outdoors in a make-shift lean-to. Some had water, some didn't. Some were fed, most were not. They were all chained with big heavy chains," Morris said.
More than $500,000 has been seized in the take-down and 14 people were arrested and now await trial, which is scheduled for May 8.
Some of the other organizations involved in the arrests include the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, the Coffee, Lee and Houston County Sheriff's Offices, the Alabama State Troopers, the Alabama Department of Public Safety, the United States Marshal's Service and Taylor Crossing Animal Hospital.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization since 1954.
Copyright 2014 - Montgomery Advertiser, Ala.
McClatchy-Tribune News Service