Over 30 dogs were rescued from a secluded area located off Mark Petersen Lane last Thursday evening according to local law enforcement officials. At least one county resident was arrested and …
Area Connected to Dogfighting Raid
By: Tim Schmidt
Over 30 dogs were rescued from a secluded area located off Mark Petersen Lane last Thursday evening according to local law enforcement officials. At least one county resident was arrested and approximately six dogs seized during a raid conducted by authorities on Highway J just outside the city limits of Wright City. Warren County Sheriff Kevin Harrison also said some dogs were removed from a second residence on Mark Petersen Lane. An undisclosed Warren County property was the site of a dogfight sometime around July 26, 2008, according to a federal indictment. No other information about the local raids has been made public as of Wednesday when The Record went to press. More arrests are expected in the coming weeks, according to authorities. The raids were conducted by state and federal agents on Wednesday, July 8, and Thursday, July 9. The Highway J property was raided Wednesday. Dogs were seized from both properties on Mark Petersen Lane Thursday evening, local authorities said. Harrison said his department didn't participate in any of the raids, but confirmed the FBI had been investigating the alleged dogfighting operations more than a year. Harrison said anywhere from 20 to 30 dogs were at one of the Mark Petersen Lane property throughout the duration of the investigation. At one point, the property housed 50 to 80 pit bulls, Harrison added. "It's a bizarre world and culture these people live in," he told The Record. Local county officials had been watching the property located at 23060 Mark Petersen Lane since at least Jan. 21, according to records from the planning and zoning office following a neighbor's complaint over the number of dogs kept there. At least two site visits were conducted by planning and zoning officer Linda Gant, including one when she was accompanied by Southern District Commissioner Hubie Kluesner and Harrison. Harrison acknowledged the pit bulls kept at the property south of Wright City were cared for and properly fed. All of the dogs were chained to barrels or trees. "Physically, they were all fine," Harrison said. Kluesner confirmed that it appeared dogfighting did occur at the Mark Petersen property. He said there was an enclosed chainlink cage with tarps surrounding it to eliminate possible distractions during a fight. In addition during his site visit, Kluesner noted dog treadmills on the premises. Kluesner and the other county commissioners have looked into drafting an ordinance in an effort to place rules on kennels or properties housing "aggressive" dogs. "At this time, there is nothing the county can do to prevent the number of dogs on a premise," Kluesner said. More than 150 dogs were rescued in multiple raids conducted in eastern Missouri last week. In all, authorities rescued more than 400 dogs following investigations elsewhere, including Illinois, Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa and Mississippi. In the federal incident filed July 1 and unsealed last week, Jack Ruppel, 35, of Eldon, allegedly attended a contract dogfight in Warren County and was one of five individuals indicted, according to the federal grand jury investigation. Four others who were arrested last Wednesday for their alleged involvement in the dogfighting ring include: Michael Morgan, a/k/a Missouri Mike, 38, Hannibal; Robert Hackmann, 55, Foley; and Teddy Kiriakidis, a/k/a Teddy Bogart, 50, Leasburg. According to the indictment, all five ran various kennel operations to purchase, breed and train pit bull terriers to participate in dogfighting ventures. So far, 26 individuals have been arrested as part of the multistate investigation and are accused of being cruel to animals, including shooting dogs in the head when they didn't fight well. Under federal law, the government can take custody of any animal engaged in an animal fighting venture. The dogs rescued in Missouri are being cared for by the Humane Society of Missouri at undisclosed locations and are being evaluated by animal behavior experts to determine future placement with rescue groups or individuals.