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After a four year investigation into what is being hailed as the second largest dog-fighting raid in U.S. history, 367 dogs, primarily pit bulls, have been rescued from what witnesses describe as deplorable conditions.
Dogs were seized from Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, to as far away as Texas. In general the dogs were found to be neglected, receiving minimal to no veterinary care. Many were tethered to heavy chains with no access to food or water in the 90+ degree heat.
A single yard found to be part of the dog-fighting operation held 114 dogs, with not a drop of food or water in sight.
In addition to the dogs, investigators found equipment and supplies consistent with dog fighting, including treadmills and weight training machines for the dogs, medicines and antibiotics to treat infections after fighting wounds, breeding stands, even staple guns which are commonly used to seal open wounds. Police also seized about $500,000 in cash along with a supply of weapons and narcotics.
The Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals assisted FBI, the US Attorney’s Office, and local law enforcement agencies in the massive raid.
While investigations continue, the rescued dogs are being held in an undisclosed location where they’ll be medically treated and brought back to health. Both animal advocacy organizations are working closely with veterinarians and specialized dog trainers in efforts to make the dogs suitable for adoption.
Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for Humane Society of the United States, is confident that most dogs will finally be able to live the life that they deserve, telling NBC News, “Some former fighting dogs have gone on to be therapy dogs, to work with law enforcement and to be beloved family pets.”
Because dog fighters are careful to hold operations in remote areas, many go on for years without being noticed. Others, Tim Rickey, vice president of field investigations and response for the ASPCA, says, simply go unreported by suspicious neighbors.
Rickey urges anyone with suspicions or evidence of dog fighting operations in their area to contact authorities.
To date, 11 of the 14 people indicted in this dog fighting ring have been arrested, 3 remain at large.
The largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history remains the “Missouri 500,” so named for the 500 dogs that were rescued in 2009.