National dogfighting crackdown vindicates Laura Maloney
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, September 2007:
NEW ORLEANS–Pronouncing herself “Extremely disheartened” by
alleged judicial and mainstream law enforcement indifference toward
dogfighting on April 17, 2007, former Louisiana SPCA executive
director Laura Maloney saw attitudes change abruptly before her
August 31, 2007 departure to join her husband Dan in Australia.
Previously curator at the Audubon Park Zoo in New Orleans,
Dan Maloney now heads Zoos Victoria in Melbourne.
Laura Maloney left the Louisiana SPCA two days after the
second anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. Katrina destroyed the
Louisiana SPCA shelter, and drove much of the organization’s donor
base out of New Orleans. Yet, while rebuilding the Louisiana SPCA
was Maloney’s biggest challenge, combating dogfighting was her
passion and greatest frustration.
Even when dogfighting appeared to have been suppressed to the
verge of extinction in most of the U.S. more than 20 years ago, high
stakes gambling on dogfights persisted in New Orleans. Maloney and
Humane Society of Louisiana founder Jeff Dorson targeted dogfighting
more aggressively than anyone in New Orleans ever had before,
including the 2005 arrest of reputed longtime dogfighting breeder
Floyd Boudreau, 70, awaiting trial on 64 related charges.
But on April 16, 2007 they were bitterly disappointed when
Judge Benedict Willard found alleged dogfighter Cleveland Harris not
guilty of separate dogfighting felony counts filed in 2003 and 2005.
“Evidence in the 2003 and 2005 cases,” Maloney recited,
“included two championship awards presented to Mr. Harris by the
Sporting Dog Journal, an underground dogfighting magazine which has
not been published since owner James Jay Fricchione was convicted of
dogfighting and animal cruelty in 2004,” an extensive array of drugs
and paraphernalia often associated with dogfighting, and “multiple
scarred dogs, one with a seriously damaged face and missing lip.”
The dogfighting case was lost when Hurricane Katrina
destroyed the Louisiana SPCA evidence room. Maloney and Louisiana
SPCA humane law enforcement director Kathryn Destreza testified that
video tapes which could no longer be viewed had showed Harris and his
dogs in a fighting pit, but without the actual tapes, Judge Willard
convicted Harris only on 16 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty in
the 2003 case and eight counts of cruelty in the 2005 case.
Eight days after the Harris acquittal, police began
impounding pit bull terriers and dogfighting paraphernalia from the
Surrey, Virginia property of Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael
Vick. On the same day, Maloney was called to assist after a
federal cocaine trafficking investigation in Mississippi turned up
more than 40 alleged fighting dogs.
From then until almost the moment of her flight to Melbourne,
Maloney was in constant demand as a dogfighting law enforcement
expert and quotable source.
Contrary to popular perception, ANIMAL PEOPLE files
indicate, the Michael Vick bust was not followed by increasing
numbers of arrests and dog seizures in alleged dogfighting cases.
The 33 arrests and 244 dogs seized during the next five months were
consistent with the numbers recorded over similar intervals in every
year since 1998. Between 1997 and 2001, the U.S. dogfighting
arrests soared from 11 to 75, and the numbers of dogs impounded
increased from 95 to just under 900.
Never before the Vick case, however, did dogfighting
receive such intensive media coverage. Major alleged dogfighting
arrests, involving 10 to 40 dogs each, came in 12 states.
Several of the biggest busts of 2007 came before the Vick
case broke, however, including the seizures of 136 pit bull
terriers in a series of related raids in the Dayton and Cincinnati
areas that started in July 2006. At least 38 alleged participants