After what is being called the largest dogfighting raid in South Carolina’s history, more than 300 dogs were saved and 20 people were taken into custody.
In a press release sent out on Monday, the DOJ said that over the weekend, dozens of warrants were carried out by more than 60 federal agents and state police officers.
On Saturday, authorities stopped a dogfighting match in Richland County. On Sunday, they carried out 23 search warrants on properties that had “known dogfighting kennels” or were “linked to dog fighting.”
During the raids, 305 dogs were saved. At least 275 of them had been used in dogfights, according to the authorities. Twenty people were also arrested on state animal cruelty and dogfighting charges.
In the same news release, the DOJ also said that police had seized about 30 guns, $40,000 in cash, and proof of dogfighting. The operation “is believed to be the biggest takedown of a dogfighting operation in South Carolina history,” the DOJ says.
In a release sent to PEOPLE, the Humane Society said that during Sunday’s search, it was found that dogs had been living in outdoor pens. Some of them were also tied down and only had “makeshift shelters” to keep them dry when it rained.
The dogs also looked like they weren’t getting enough food or water, even though it was a sunny and hot day, the Humane Society said in a press release.
The agency added that many of the dogs had also suffered “severe scarring, as well as festering open wounds, lacerations and abscesses.”
After being “penned or chained to trees in the woods,” many of the dogs had serious wounds that needed immediate care.
Some of the dogs were happy to see the first responders and greeted them by wagging their tails and licking them. However, the Humane Society said that some of the dogs weren’t as happy to see them and instead looked at them “reluctantly.”
“It’s truly distressing to come upon dogs who are severely injured yet chained to trees or left to languish in a pen instead of getting the care they desperately need,” said Adam Parascandola, vice president of the animal rescue team for the Humane Society of the United States. “Thanks to all the agencies who intervened on behalf of these dogs, this is the last day they’re going to have to live like this.”
“To force dogs to fight, often to the death, for the enjoyment of others is not only a federal crime, it is also cruel, sadistic, and can create a haven for other illicit activities involving drugs and firearms,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs in the DOJ’s announcement.
The Animal Welfare Act says that anyone who fights dogs or has, trains, sells, buys, delivers, receives, or transports dogs that are meant to be used in dogfights can get up to five years in federal prison for a felony.
According to the Humane Society, the dogs involved in the operation are currently receiving treatment at unknown locations.
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