Two Milton residents busted in dogfighting ring

Posted on September 26, 2019 by Staff reports

Five individuals were arrested yesterday on a 44-count federal indictment charging violations of the dogfighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and conspiracy to commit those violations. The arrests were announced by U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe of the Northern District of Florida and Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark for the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Shane Patrick Sprague, 35, of Pensacola, Florida, Derek Jedidiah Golson, aka Derek Jedidiah Murray, 38, of Pensacola, Florida, Haley Cook Murph, 24, of Milton, Florida, David Lee Moser, 36, of Waynesboro, Tennessee, and James “Tommy” Peek, 67, of Milton, Florida were indicted in the case involving C Wood Kennels. 

The indictment alleges that defendants Sprague and Golson operated C Wood Kennels, a dogfighting operation that arranged dogfights, allowed fighting dogs to attack “bait” animals, and trafficked in fighting dogs with defendant Moser and others outside of Florida, including through an underground dogfighting website.  The indictment further alleges that defendant Peek acted as a source to supply fighting dogs to C Wood Kennels. 

According to the indictment, defendant Murph’s role was that of a makeshift “veterinarian” for C Wood Kennels. Although Murph at no time possessed a veterinary license, she offered to and did perform veterinary and surgical procedures on fighting dogs so the kennel could avoid the scrutiny of a licensed veterinarian. The defendant also possessed veterinary equipment used to treat injured fighting dogs, including skin staplers, sutures, intravenous bags and lines, scalpels, and injectable animal steroids.

“Dogfighting is a blight on humanity, one that has no place in the Northern District of Florida or anywhere else,” said U.S. Attorney Keefe. “We will continue to work with federal and local law enforcement agencies to root out this barbaric blood sport, in Florida and beyond.”

“As this case demonstrates, we are aggressively prosecuting dogfighters and those who support their inhumane criminal enterprises – including unscrupulous veterinarians or veterinary poseurs,” said Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.  “We thank our federal and local law enforcement partners who made this operation possible.”

“The provisions of the Animal Welfare Act were designed to protect animals from being used in illegal fighting ventures, which often entail other forms of criminal activity involving drugs, firearms, and gambling,” said Special Agent in Charge Bethanne M. Dinkins of the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Office of Inspector General. “Animal fighting is an investigative priority for USDA-OIG, and together with the Department of Justice, we will work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and assist in the criminal prosecution of those who participate in animal fighting ventures.”

The federal Animal Welfare Act makes it a felony to sponsor or exhibit an animal in an animal fighting venture and to possess, train, sell, purchase, transport, deliver, or receive an animal for purposes of having the animal participate in an animal fighting venture.

This matter continues to be investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General. Assistant United States Attorney Ryan Love and Department of Justice Trial Attorney Ethan Eddy are prosecuting the case.  If convicted, each defendant faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine per count. 

An indictment is merely an allegation by a grand jury that a defendant has committed a violation of federal criminal law and is not evidence of guilt. All defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial, during which it will be the government’s burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.