Dog Beat Dog: To Pull Off the Biggest Pit Bull Fighting Bust in U.S. History, Investigators and Their Dogs Went Undercover

The grainy footage shows two snarling pit bulls in a dimly lit barn, staring each other down through a haze of cigarette smoke. Walled in by a makeshift ring of three-foot-high plywood boards, the collarless dogs twitch and wag their tails, expending nervous energy like prizefighters shadowboxing in the ring in the moments before the opening bell.

Both dogs are males and have a tan coat and a white belly, which makes it difficult to tell them apart. They're about 10 months old — young for fighters. This is their first taste of combat.

Each dog has a handler who grips it by the scruff of the neck and positions it opposite its foe in the corner of the 16-by-16-foot ring. When they're released, the pit bulls collide with a dull thud. One dog lands on its back and the other pounces, grabbing hold with its jaws. The two animals spend the next several minutes growling and panting, locked in a ferocious struggle.

A rescued pit bull named Fay had her lips amputated by her owner, leaving her with a permanent scowl.
Jennifer Silverberg
A rescued pit bull named Fay had her lips amputated by her owner, leaving her with a permanent scowl.
This one-eyed dog was seized from the kennel of James Milburn, a pit bull breeder and dogfighter in southern Illinois.
This one-eyed dog was seized from the kennel of James Milburn, a pit bull breeder and dogfighter in southern Illinois.

John Bacon, who owns the dog that's on top, bends at the waist and rests his hands on the knees of his baggy overalls, hovering close to the tangle of fur and flesh. He cajoles his pit bull to release its bite and improve its position. The dogs tumble over one another and Bacon jumps out of the way. "There you go!" he shouts. "That's where you want to be!"

The other dog is getting mauled. It emits a piercing squeal, followed by a whimper. Laughter ripples through the crowd. Joseph Addison, a spectator who wears his hair in a jumble of chin-length braids, suggests it's time to stop the match.

"This motherfucker through, man," he says to Bacon. "He's done."

Using a small, wedge-shaped piece of wood called a break stick, Bacon pries open his dog's jaws, releasing its opponent. The animals are separated and taken back to their respective corners to "scratch." If they charge again, the fight continues. If one dog refuses, it will be branded a "cur" — an almost certain death sentence.

At the moment of truth, the vanquished dog cowers while Bacon's dog attacks without hesitation, biting down and thrashing its powerful neck in order to inflict maximum damage. Again the handlers separate the dogs. The fight is over.

Someone in the crowd asks the losing dog's owners what they plan to do with it.

"I'll take 'im home," one says.

"Take him home?" comes the incredulous reply. "Look at this shit! You'll take him home?"

"Yeah," the man repeats, declining the offer to use an impromptu electric chair: an extension cord rigged with alligator clips attached to one end. "I'll take 'im home."

A year and a half later, Bacon describes the scrap in the East St. Louis, Illinois, barn as "just a little wrasslin' match." In dog-fighting parlance it's known as a "roll" — a brief sparring session used to gauge whether a pup has the fighting spirit known simply as "game."

"A contract fight is something you prepare for," Bacon said. "A roll is just 10, maybe 15 minutes. The dogs ain't gettin' hurt too much."

He's a carpenter by trade, but Bacon knows a lot about dogfighting. Still, there was one thing he didn't know on March 22, 2009.

He was unaware that his dog's opponent, Hammer, was property of the United States government.

The dog was purchased, trained, and brought to the fight by Terry Mills and Jeff Heath, veteran Missouri State Highway Patrol officers who were conducting an extensive undercover investigation into the secretive and brutal world of organized pit bull fighting and breeding. Both men wore video- and audio-recording equipment concealed in their clothes.

Four months after the fight in the barn, a multi-agency task force conducted a series of raids in eight states. Agents arrested 26 dogfighters, including Bacon, and seized more than 500 pit bulls — the largest dogfighting bust in American history. In order to make their case, investigators had spent a year and a half taking part in the same gruesome activities for which they would later make the arrests.


In early 2008, Terry Mills was working on a domestic-terrorism task force headed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The unit had received a tip that a "known domestic terror group" was standing guard at dogfights in rural Missouri.

"We already knew that in Texas a particular well-known outlaw motorcycle gang was providing security at dogfights," Mills says over a cup of coffee in Cape Girardeau, his hometown. "So for an organized militia group to be doing that, it wasn't really surprising."

Mills, a burly 55-year-old whose soft eyes and stubbled cheeks are set off by a bushy gray goatee, cultivated a source who had ties to Bob Hackman, a renowned breeder of fighting pit bulls in the Midwest. The confidential informant worked as a "yard boy," feeding and watering the dogs and "shaping" them for upcoming fights with a variety of training exercises.

Mills and FBI agent Bob Hoelscher outfitted their snitch with a wire and eavesdropped as he attended a series of dogfights in northeast Missouri. But after three months of sleuthing, they'd made no headway in the domestic-terrorism probe.

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53 comments
PitOwner
PitOwner

Dog-fighting is NOT a sport.I'll consider it to be a sport when those that fight dogs do so themselves.Step your inhuman ass into the ring -unarmed- and fight your weight in Pit Bulls, hand-to-hand.THEN I'll consider it a sport. I'll even train the dogs to fight you.

Big Fish
Big Fish

yes you do ,every once in awhile ,it is to bad it won't be that many right now but in the future, I commend you on a job best done the ways you could!! Good Luck in the future !!!

Devildc
Devildc

As the owner of a pit bull mix, I know that because of dogfighters like those described in this story, my dog has the undeserved reputation of being vicious. Dogfighters are very careful to keep their activities undercover, an I applaud the law enforcement authorities for being able to track down these people. Unfortunately, the law provides for minimal punishment for dogfighters, so they're likely to do their time and go right back to mistreating these beautiful dogs.

Lisa Ottino
Lisa Ottino

I could not finish the article because I was sick to my stomach. These poor dogs have this horrible reputation because of jackasses who would rather exploit them for money. When they dont make the money, they kill the dogs....by any means necessary. It just sickens me that these dogs will die just to be loved by their owner.

Sara Sylvvia Stout
Sara Sylvvia Stout

have you ever owned a pit bull? They LIKE to fight. it is what they do. they are fighting breed of a dog, everyone has heard the phrase 'it is in their blood' well that means that what they WANT to do this. they like it.

no, I do not and have not ever fought dogs, i could not sit and watch a dog fight any more than i could watch a professional boxing match. but it is my personal preference not to view these things. just because i dont like something, doesnt mean it is wrong.

ever think that if thousands and thousands of people do this, well maybe its not that wrong. the only reason it is ILLEGAL is because a group of people got together that did not like it, and decided since they did not like it, well then nobody should do this. so they got a law passed making it illegal and IMPOSED THEIR WILL on others that did not want it, and now its an awful crime.

so lets just sit back and watch the laws get passed, as each group comes forward and decides that if they feel strongly about something, then a law should be passed to make it a crime for anyone who does what they don't like. there is freedom for you. there are people who dont like abortion so lets make it illegal. people who do think it is NOT ok to eat animals, make it a law. people think cussing is bad, lets make it a law, say the f word and you may be subjected to a fine of not less than 22 dollars and no more than 150,000 and a year in jail. so 300 years ago, 100 years ago, hell, 25-30 years ago, it was not a crime to fight dogs or chickens. so people who fought them then, were not criminals. there are good and bad in every group. , and most of these owners do love their dogs. alot. but the people against the sport will make sure that everyone they know hears about it when they find an asshole that mistreats a dog, but that same person will not tell the same group of people that they saw 15 or 20 owners that fight pits that treat their dogs great. spoil them, love on them, pit bulls are practically lap dogs with most of their owners

Pmscas
Pmscas

Why is it that a reporter can watch this yet not report it, just because they are dogs what if they were children? They need to start turning this dumb a** sh** into authorities

Pmscas
Pmscas

So sorry I didn't read the whole article I was too upset

Michelleandjamonti
Michelleandjamonti

dogs are more than property you fool...can't you tell they feel pain. If I taped your stupid mouth you couldn't speak either but hitting over the head will still hurt. What makes you so special...if you can beat a dog then beating the senseless idiots that do it should be ok too. Humans are the worst animal in the world!

Nadie
Nadie

I hope that mofos like these dog breeders taste death soon...now that would be cool!

Alluring_elora
Alluring_elora

You know the sad thing is that out of my two years of being a Veterinary Assistant at Banfield I have seen horrible acts of cruelty and the one thing is that I wasn't allowed to do was report the abusive handlers to the police. I was told to "clean up" the wounds. I could only help heal their lives but not erase the stupidity of the owners who do unspeakable things to this breed. I was only allowed to "educate" the importance of being better compassionate people nor was I allowed to ask them to surrender their animals so we could help animal rescue adopt their animals to loving homes. It was such bullshit. It only angered me. I felt that society had truly given up on being loving people, Why should I bother? But I didn't give up. I believe that society can truly love. I had better progress spreading the word of compassion and love through society (word of mouth on the street). When will people learn that it's not "OK" to abuse animals, murder animals, abandon animals. When will society learn that it's not OK to let animal abusers walk the street free like the famous football player " Michael Vick"? So when will we be seeing him in a jail cell?

dog_advocate
dog_advocate

Thanks for sharing that info about Banfield. Since Banfield chooses to turn a blind eye to animal cruelty...I will NEVER bring my animals to them.

Smoke
Smoke

dogs are property.....should i go to jail for smashing my car with a bat?? no because its my property.

RAMEDAWG1
RAMEDAWG1

Please u eat meat ever seen a slaughter house hw things are done there so u people dnt give me this poor poor dog act yet o well we eat cows so its nt cruelty u people need to really look at urselfs u all sound like a bunch of hypocrites DNT JUDGE OR U WILL BE JUDGED

Augh!
Augh!

Smoke your kids are your property too seeing if you have any, you gonna beat them too?? you gonna let a neighborhood kid come over and fight one of them??? HELL NO!!! why would you want to do it to your 4 legged kid too?? dogs are like children, look, feel, and listen dumbass.

Damian in Phoenix
Damian in Phoenix

Why dont you try and pretend Im your property there tough guy? If you have so little respect for life then I will be happy to take yours.....all you need do if threaten any animal or person with that baseball bat!

TDSHAWPITBULL
TDSHAWPITBULL

God says THE RIGHTEOUS MAN REGARDS THE LIFE OF HIS ANIMAL, BUT THE TENDER MERCIES OF THE WICKED ARE CRUELTY, YOU WILL STAND BEFORE ALMIGHTY GOD

Matthew
Matthew

Your sister is my property, chump

65stang
65stang

smoke, you are truly a moron.

DogsBestFriend
DogsBestFriend

This is to any judge that is reading this. Come find me and I will be willing to torture the scumbags who facilitate dogs fights. Group in this category the people who participate in them, owners, breeders and whoever has ties to dogfights. I would love to torture for weeks on end the scum who thinks these dogs love to fight. I would torture the people for free. I wouldn't charge a penny. I would love to inflict the most pain possible because it is what they are doing to these dogs who have no choice in what they want to do. And 'Smoke', I hope you get what is coming to you. How about someone smash your girlfriend or wife with a bat...they shouldn't go to jail because you say they your wife or your mom is your property. Get an education, be a productive member of society and realize that any living thing is not property. Again, judges, my offer still stands.

mike
mike

you are garbage, i would be the guy to take the bat and beat the hell out of you

John
John

Only a piece of garbage looks at another living being as property. Yes you can go to jail for destroying your own property if it is a public disturbance. Your car does not bleed and love you unconditionally you creep I wish someone made you fight for your life.

Olivia
Olivia

Because of people like you our world is such a bad place Smoke.I hope you can one day regret the way you think.

Malamarey
Malamarey

These people should be treated like they were treating this poor dogs and see how they like it makes me sick that people can find this entertaining any one who does is just sick in the head.

Cerebro
Cerebro

This article was very disturbing. I find it appalling that people find it acceptable to exploit an animal simply for monetary gain and for the lust of blood. It is so sad that an innocent animal is trained to be aggressive with no love given from its master. I agree with the writer who stated that perhaps in their next life they will be spoiled pooches surrounded by a loving family. If that is the case, I hope the owners are re-incarnated as pit bulls, caught in the tortuous life they subjected their animals to.

AnimalLover
AnimalLover

=====>>>Stop The Over-Breeding of Pit Bulls - Please Read!

Did you know that "Pit Bulls" are currently the number one bred dog in the United States? Ironically, they are also one of the hardest breeds to find homes. It is estimated that there is a current average of 3 million "Pit Bulls" living in the United States and only 1 in 600 will successfully find a "forever" home. Sadly, for every 1 "Pit Bull" placed in a loving home there are 599 killed. Shockingly, that statistic unfortunately does not exclude puppies!

Roughly 200 "Pit Bulls" are killed each day because there are not enough homes for the ever-growing population of unwanted dogs. This is a frustrating problem due to over-breeding either intentionally or accidentally. Either way you look at it, it comes down to irresponsible actions by irresponsible and or greedy humans. Many people may not realize that any dog not spayed or neutered is a potential contributor to this terrible problem. The average fertile dog can produce 2 litters in one year. The average number of puppies in a canine litter is 6-10. In six years, one female dog and her offspring can theoretically produce 67,000 dogs..many or most of which will end up dead.

There are between 4,000 and 6,000 animal shelters in the United States. The number of cats and dogs entering those shelters each year is roughly 6-8 million! However, only 30% of the dogs and 2%-5% of the cats are actually reclaimed by their owners. This means the total number of cats and dogs euthanized by shelters annually is 3-4 million! It is estimated that 1 million of those dogs are "Pit Bulls".

Shelters in large cities across the U.S. typically find themselves with a "Pit Bull" population of anywhere from 40% to 60% of the total shelter population and a national average of 33%. Many shelters needing more space will opt to euthanize "Pit Bulls" before any other type of dog due to this overwhelming number. 75% of shelters nationwide will euthanize all "Pit Bulls" entering the facility without ever giving them a chance to be adopted…some more lenient organizations may give the dogs a mere 24 hour grace period before administering the lethal injection. A study done by Animal People reports that the "Pit Bull" euthanasia rate in shelters is at approximately 93% on average which means that ultimately only 7% of all homeless "Pit Bulls" in America will find a "forever" home.

Surely you can see how over-breeding has negatively affected the lives of so many dogs. It is a fact that "Pit Bull" breeders are directly responsible for a significant percentage of the estimated 1 million "Pit Bulls" killed by euthanasia each year nationwide.

Carolyn
Carolyn

ANYONE who conducts dog fights OR attends dog fights should be given hard time in the State Prison system. This is animal cruelty at its worst, and those who attend are aiding and abetting the criminals conducting the fights.

Katodexter
Katodexter

I too was sickened after reading the fighting dogs story. The story came at a time of sadness because I happened to pick it up shortly after leaving the vet's office where my two babies were put down for compilitations of old age and illness (Kato and Dexter were 16& 14 ) I had held on to them perhaps a little too long but finally and reluctantly returned them to the Father that gave them to me. So- besides being sickened by the actions of the people who perpetuate this crime: I think the court erred in not giving all the criminals the maximum sentences and if they are released---they, like child molesters, are virtually destined to commit this crime forever and neighborhoods should be warned (like child molesters) that dog fighters are entering the community. As I wrote this past sentiment, I am not happy with myself because it's so bitter. But!!! It is how I presently feel. I think it's because I just lost Kato( my pit) and with his brother, Dexter, were the most loving dogs that God put on this earth! I was approached many times over the past almost 17 years with propositions to see how strong both my dogs were and I dedicated my existence to seeing that they never had to worry about anything except for their treats and whether or not I planned to bathe them that day. So, I'll stop this rambling, except to reiterate: dog fighting is disgusting and penalties should be more severe for the criminals who subject animals it. And Kato and Dex : I miss you more than you can know and thankyou again for being with me so long.

Paul

PS: I'm sorry I gave you that bath yesterday but I wanted you to look extra special.

Amyh5656
Amyh5656

Somone should beat the crap out of the owners of these poor dogs. I own two beautiful pit bulls, and I could never imagine making them fight one another for entertainment. What a bunch of ignorant jerks!

Mlynn
Mlynn

This article almost brought me to tears in a few places. What these men did i brave. And yeah it's really hard to think about the dogs they used in the process, but that is how this had to go. That is how they could save more dogs and really thousands over time b/c of all the puppies that will be born and have a chance at love and a life free of abuse and torture. Sometimes the means of something are gross, but you have to focus on the ends too.

Sean Maple
Sean Maple

Wanna get your head kicked right the fuck in? Let me catch you fighting your dog. Not at all a joke. Read the article before you judge me please. This shit made me want to cry.

Wtf
Wtf

This sport is fucking disgusting.

Olivia
Olivia

So this is the first world, huh ? The great USA !!!! Yeahhhhhh

Nativewalker
Nativewalker

Backcue by your reasoning humans being the most lethal animal on the plant should not be allowed to reproduce? No PIT BULL has ever caused as much damage as a human!!! Please do all of use a favor and change things in the for good and not just talk ok!

Alluring_elora
Alluring_elora

Hey Backcue, you say that the pit bull breed itself is not a family dog so what are you trying to imply? We cannot wipe out a entire breed of dog to extinction because you feel that the pitt bull is dangerous. If so you should think about wiping out other "potential trouble breeds" that bite, mangle or maul people like Akitas or chow chows. Are you a pitt bull racist? I have been a PROUD owner of a loving, gentle and energetic pitt bull breed for over 20 years of my life. Don't be a hater.

Backcue
Backcue

Let me start by saying that dog fighting is WRONG! And it really sucks that pit bulls get a bad reputation for things like this, BUT...are you ready for an argument? Pit bulls should NOT be a family dog! Any pit bull, no matter how it is raised, is gonna have some aggression. It is in their nature, they are an aggressive breed. Uneducated people that have them as family pets need to stop giving out bad information. Any dog can turn on anyone, pit bulls are just more prone to it because they are bull headed and stubborn. Learn your breed before you go saying stuff that is incorrect.

Sean Maple
Sean Maple

Bullies used to be known as the "Nanny Breed". People used to use them to pretty much baby-sit their kids. I think you need to do some research.

Kkeydoszius
Kkeydoszius

put the owners in a cage, lets see how they do. I have to perfect pitbulls. the owners are scared of hand to face combat so they make innocent animals victims of there insecurities.

Tricia
Tricia

I am horrified reading this article!! I have 2 pits..they are the love of my life. They couldn't be the most sweetest & lovable dogs I ever own. For someone to "train" pitbulls or any other dog to fight is disgusting!! They should alligator tip attached to them for doing such a horrendous act! These dogs don't deserve that kind of treatment. Makes me sick to my stomach...

EZ602
EZ602

Thank you for the article. Old dump Bacon is the typical weak minded woe is me punk. Your right dump, human life and dog life are not valued the same. A dog's life is worth much more than yours. I would have no problem see you shot and left for dead. These idiots should get 20 years, plus have to fight Brock Lessner once a month until beatin to death.

Alehound
Alehound

I agree. Brock needs to work on his ground game tho... :)

azlild
azlild

People like them are the reason why these dogs have such bad raps. i own a couple of them and they are the best family dogs i have had so far. these dogs are naturaly a very loving breed who just want ur company and pets. i would love to see these guys locked up in a kennel and made to fight without them having a choice about it. Thanks to those gentleman who dug deep and made a big bust on the underground of dogfighting.

Hol
Hol

I am a total animal lover, we are so lucky to have people like this fighting for animals. It is so heartbreaking to know there are such evil people in the world that will harm animals for profit and enjoyment. There needs to be stricter laws for animal cruelty, animals just like people feel pain and their premeditated torture and deaths should not be taken lightly. If someone could harm such an innocent creature they could harm a person just as easy. I believe in God doing the judging let's just help them get there.

Jade C.
Jade C.

This story kills me and makes me sick to my stomach ... the cruelty that some people have is staggering. It must be sickening and tortuous to be an undercover officer and have to watch how other humans can disreguard life so easily. I'm glad that even a small fraction of dirtbags are no longer causing pain, misery and death to innocent dogs anymore. The more its talked about and not pushed into the dark recesses of society the greater chance we have to putting a stop to it. I hope that people reading this understand that pit bulls in general are sweet, loving and only want to appease their master. These dogs have enured such honor (as being war heroes) and now such disgrace for no reason other then ignorant, scumbags see the qualities that make this dog amazing and turn it into something horrid. My heart goes out to the 500+ dogs siezed as I'm sure the majority were not rehabilitated and rehomed; I hope in their next life they are loved, spoiled and lazy pooches with a GREAT family surrounding them.

Loreta
Loreta

A big THANK YOU to Mr. Heath and Mr. Mills for what you have done. You didnt give up your effort. You have saved so many lives. Though these dogs have no voice to sound off their gratitude, they sure can give you lots of licks and tail wags!

Sue
Sue

Thank you for this article. The more article on dog fighting the better. I commend these gentlemen that did not give up their investigation. There should be very, very stiff fines and jail time for the offenders. Not like Mr. Vick that got off so easily. Lucky him being a celeb! :<(

JBarrett
JBarrett

Great article. I would love to see a similar article on the psychology of those who find this kind of "sport" acceptable. They are truly sick minds who would watch this, much less organize it.

 
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