Dogfighting raids in five states Tuesday led to about 30 arrests and the seizure of about 350 dogs, including Oklahoma dogs, according to the Humane Society of the United States. It’s believed to be the nation’s largest simultaneous raid of multiple dogfighting operations. Officers from numerous federal and state law enforcement agencies raided suspected dogfighting operations in Oklahoma, Texas, Missouri, Illinois and Iowa. One arrest was made in Oklahoma. Jerry Matlock, 57, of Stilwell was arrested near Welling in rural Cherokee County, said U.S. Attorney Sheldon Sperling of the Eastern District of Oklahoma. Matlock was charged with three felony counts, each punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of no more than $250,000. "In dark corners of modern America, brutal savagery lingers in despicable form,” Sperling said. "Dogs are encouraged to rip each other to shreds. The canine combatant gladiators suffer, sometimes horribly. Losing dogs are sometimes executed when they are too disabled to be of further value.” He said watching and betting on dogfights is like a scaled-down Roman Coliseum and should be considered abhorrent today.
Raising awarenessSperling said count one against Matlock alleges a conspiracy to travel to participate in a criminal dogfighting enterprise, to sponsor an interstate animal fighting venture, and to buy, transport, deliver or receive a dog for purposes of participation in an animal fighting venture. Two other counts allege actual sponsorship or participation in interstate animal fighting and transporting an animal for interstate animal fighting. The extensive raid is no surprise, said Christy Counts, executive director of the Central Oklahoma Humane Society. "This is a huge underground business. It’s something that goes largely unregulated and has negative implications in all parts of our community,” she said. Counts said it’s difficult to know whether the seized dogs will have the temperament to make them good candidates for rehabilitation. She said the local society will work with the national group as the seizure operation plays out. "I’m glad this happened. It’s going to help raise awareness,” Counts said. "I think people see situations like Michael Vick and don’t understand this is happening in our own backyard.” Pro football star Vick served about 1 years in prison for his role in a kennel on his property in Virginia. Law enforcement cooperation in the Oklahoma arrest included agents with the FBI, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of Inspector General, as well as the Oklahoma Highway Patrol and the Cherokee and Adair counties sheriff’s departments. Matlock appeared in federal court Tuesday afternoon, waived his right to an identity hearing and was ordered released under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office. He is to appear in federal court in Tyler, Texas, on Tuesday. The raids followed a more than yearlong investigation spurred by information from the Humane Society of Missouri, which drew in other groups. Dogfighting is a felony in every state.