Six TV screens in the courtroom of U.S. District Judge Keith Watkins on Friday showed a heart-wrenching photo of a female Pit Bull killed in an east Alabama dog fight staged by Donnie Anderson, ‘Godfather’ of a huge multi-state dog-fighting ring, reports the Wisconsin Gazette.
The judge also used the courtroom TV’s to display photos of emaciated, obviously sick and suffering adult Pit Bulls and puppies that were seized from Anderson’s properties and said "most people would be shocked beyond belief" by the conditions.
Anderson was sentenced to eight years in prison, followed by three years on supervised release, during which time he is banned him from owning any dogs.
Many commenters are questioning why a man who was personally responsible for killing any losing dogs by electrocution, shooting, drowning, hanging or any other vile, sadistic method he might devise--in more than 80 fights in which almost 500 dogs were involved--would be allowed to have possession of any dog for the remainder of his life.
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In August 2013, law-enforcement agencies conducted simultaneous raids to make arrests and seize dogs in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. 451 Pit Bulls were seized from all defendants in the case, the Huffington Post reports. Roughly half either died or had to be put down because of health problems, the judge said. Many were injured from previous fights, almost all were infested with parasites and heartworm, undernourished and ill and living in abominable conditions.
Included in those raids was Anderson's home in Auburn and wooded property in Waverly, Alabama. 126 of the dogs were removed from those two locations.
Judge Watkins called Anderson "the godfather of this conspiracy." He gave him the harshest sentence of the six defendants who pleaded guilty, stating that Anderson, 50, “deserved longer because he pleaded guilty to more charges than anyone, had staged dog fights for many years, and had shown extraordinary cruelty to the animals,” according to the Associated Press.
In April, Anderson pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy, four counts of sponsoring dog fights, one count of possessing a fighting dog and one count of operating an illegal gambling business.
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"People have a really tough time believing and understanding the true brutality and barbarians involved in this, but I also think the public fails to understand the scope of the people," said Tim Rickey, VP Field Investigator with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA).
"This is not an isolated event in Alabama, it is happening all over the country much more frequently than people would understand,” Rickey emphasized.
In the lucrative “sport” of dog fighting, the high stakes events staged by Donnie Anderson reportedly averaged bets up to $100,000 per match.
Witnesses testified that usual attendance would be from 100 to 300 people, each of whom paid $100 to $150 for admittance. Spectators usually carried large amounts of cash and many spectators and participants were armed. Illegal drug sales are common at such events, and WTVM reports that Donnie Anderson was also accused of buying and selling drugs at his fights.
Laronda Martin, his defense attorney, said Anderson was just trying to supplement his salary as a truck driver and is remorseful.
Donnie Anderson, the "Godfather," remains out on bond until he reports to prison in January.