7 indicted for operating northwest Missouri dog-fighting ring

A federal grand jury has indicted two western Missouri men and five others for purportedly operating a pit bull dog-fighting ring in Northwest Missouri.

The men allegedly participated in a multi-state ring that is being called the largest in the country.

Authorities seized 53 dogs in early-morning raids on several locations in western Missouri and more than 350 dogs total in a coordinated sweep involving locations in several states. Most of the dogs were pit bull terriers, federal officials said.

The local charges, unsealed Wednesday morning in Kansas City, allege that Rick P. Hihath, 55, of St. Joseph, Cris E. Bottcher, 48, of Gilman City, Mo., Jill D. Makstaller, 32, of Perry, Iowa, Julio Reyes, 28, of Tecumseh, Neb., Zachary R. Connelly, 32, of Ogden, Iowa, Kevin P. Tasler, 51, of Jefferson, Iowa, and Ryan J. Tasler, 32, of Woodward, Iowa, conspired to sponsor a dog-fighting enterprise.

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