Blood Sports: Michigan’s New Dog Fighting & Cockfighting Laws Toughest In U.S.

| by Denise A Justin

Effective January 1, 2013, dog fighting and cockfighting can be prosecuted as a criminal  enterprise (racketeering) in Michigan, with penalties of up to 20 years in prison and fines of $100,000.

The new law is part of the Michigan Legislature’s crack down on blood sports, and allows police to seize homes and vehicles and also shut down any venue associated with animal fighting; and declare it a nuisance. The new law adds animal fighting, shooting and baiting to the list of racketeering crimes.

State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said the new laws send the message that "Michigan is not a good place to bring dog fighting: 20 years in prison, $100,000 fine, lose your house, your barn, your property, cars, anything involved with this crime.”

Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon warns violators, “... if you're going to profit from this, we're going to take your profit from you, much like large drug and prostitution operations”. The new penalties do not replace current law. They expand the charges that county prosecutors can bring.

Previously, animal fighting has been a felony punishable by up to four years in prison and a maximum $50,000 fine.

 “Most offenders in the past have paid minimum fines of $1,000 to $5,000 and have also been sentenced to jail or prison time,” said Raj Prasad, the Wayne County assistant prosecutor who co-founded the office's animal protection unit that handles all animal-related cases.

Vicki Deisner, the ASPCA’s state director for the Midwest, says "Michigan is out ahead on this one. This package of laws sets a new national standard. “


Michigan has become a national hotbed for dog fighting according to the ASPCA, with the Detroit, Flint and Kalamazoo areas generating some of the highest numbers of complaints.  Michigan Humane Society received 112 complaints during the first nine months of 2012, compared with 113 for all of 2011. Because it is a clandestine activity, organization said it is impossible to know how many people are involved.

But, it doesn’t stop with the cruelty to the animals and the painful deaths of hundreds, maybe thousands, of  Pit Bulls that are forced to tear at each other’s bodies, often for hours, until one of them dies or can no longer fight.  Other criminal activities; such as gambling, narcotics, guns are found in almost every animal-fighting case that Wayne County has prosecuted, Deputy DA Prasad said.

Much of what is fueling the increased animal fighting is that the gambling stakes are so high and, until this time, law-enforcement has lacked the tools to really penalize these multimillion-dollar enterprises. Michigan’s new approach involves also educating and organizing at all levels to bring down the entrenched fight organizers, breeders and dog trainers have been involved in illegal activity and have run dog-fighting operations for years, even decades.

The new law "enables us to go after the more long-term breeders and fighters," Prasad said. "These laws are designed to go after the bigger operations that have a lot more invested.


The boldness of dog fighters and cockfighters had become so commonplace in Michigan, that a video was found during a Wayne County raid in which a man identified as rapper Young Calicoe, gave a tour in which he points out caged gamefowl and dogs. He points to some birds: "We got some more fighters over here, making that real money."

"Anybody want to fight some dogs?" Young Calicoe asks. "I hope we don't get indicted for that ... that Michael Vick-type (expletive). Of some dogs, he says: "They champions in the making, man."

Young Calicoe, also known as Toranio Hightower,  is scheduled in Wayne County for trial beginning in  January 2013.  He has been charged with (1) conspiracy to Gamble,(2)  Dog Fightiing and (3) conspiracy to commit dog fighting.

Detroit Rapper Calicoe shows off his Dog Fighting operation, Lets get these guys .

Young Calicoe to face animal fighting charges.