by Scott Johnson, The Montgomery (Ala.) Advertiser
MONTGOMERY, Ala. - Animal welfare workers are looking for homes for 367 dogs rescued as part of what is believed to be the second largest dog fighting raid in U.S. history.
Federal and local officials announced details of the Friday raid at a joint news conference Monday at the U.S. Attorney's Office here.
Agents executed 11 search warrants Friday in Alabama and two in Georgia, and 11 people named on a federal indictment had been arrested as of Monday.
Three names were redacted, and U.S. Attorney George Beck said those names had not been released because arrests had not yet been made. The raid was culmination of a three-year investigation that the Auburn, Ala., Police Department initiated.
Along with the 367 pit bull terriers, agents seized guns, narcotics, drugs used to train and treat the dogs and other evidence of dog fighting, authorities said.
They also seized $500,000 in the operation, and Beck said the defendants would bet $5,000 to $200,000 on a single fight.
The Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals assisted FBI, local law enforcement agencies and the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Middle District of Alabama in the investigation.
Officials said the dog-fighting ring stretched from Alabama into Georgia and Texas, displaying the reach that the operations can have.
"To be able to fight their dogs and breed their dogs, they have to be able to have these connections," said Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for Humane Society of the United States.
Schindler said he expected the operation to have a significant effect on dog-fighting operations.
"I absolutely think this is going to send shock waves through the dog fighting community. It is going to put people on notice," he said.
Behavioral specialists with the both animal organizations are working on retraining the dogs so they are more docile.
Schindler said the his group has had a lot of success with dogs rescued from dog-fighting rings. Some former fighting dogs have gone on to be therapy dogs, to work with law enforcement and to be beloved family pets, including in his own home.
The dogs rescued Friday were receiving minimal care, were bound by heavy chains and many were heavily scarred, said Tim Rickey, vice president of field investigations and response for the ASPCA, adding that such treatment is not unusual in dog-fighting cases.
One yard had 114 dogs, most of them tethered to large chains, in 90-degree weather with no water or food in sight, according to one veterinarian account.
Investigators found materials consistent with running a dog-fighting operation at the scenes of the raids, including medicines, staple guns to seal wounds and treadmills for the dogs, Rickey said.
"They are athletes," Rickey said, in explanation of the treadmills. "Some fights go an hour to two hours."
Dogs used in fighting rings typically are kept in isolated areas, he said.
"It is intentional by the dog fighters," Rickey said. "People are less likely to notice it."
Because the operations remain mostly hidden from view, dog-fighting cases are difficult to crack, he said.
Still, he said people often do have suspicions about the operations. Investigators often learn raids that neighbors had concerns or suspected what was going on but failed to contact authorities.
People with suspicions about a possible dog fighting operation should contact law enforcement, he said.
The largest dog fighting raid in history was in 2009, when 500 dogs were rescued in Missouri, in a case that became known as the Missouri 500.
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