367 pit bulls, $500K confiscated
MONTGOMERY, Ala. — An investigation into organized dog fighting and gambling in the Southeast resulted in 12 arrests and the seizure of 367 pit bulls in one of the nation's largest crackdowns on the bloody exhibitions.
Federal, state and local officials announced the arrests on Monday. They stemmed from raids Friday on homes in Alabama and Georgia, and the seizure of more than $500,000 in cash that investigators believe was tied to illegal gambling on dog fights.
“I believe if Dante were alive today and rewriting the ‘Inferno' that the lowest places in hell would be reserved for those who commit cruelty to our animals and to our children,” U.S. Attorney George Beck said at a news conference.
Court-appointed attorneys for some of the defendants said they plan to plead not guilty at an arraignment on Wednesday.
The defendants are charged with conspiring to promote and sponsor dog fights and arranging for dogs to be at the fights in Alabama and Mississippi between 2009 and 2013.
Most of the defendants are charged with conducting an illegal gambling business. In an indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Opelika, one defendant is accused of winning $35,000 at a dog fight in Waverly in August 2011. Two others were stopped by officers with $12,000 in cash after attending a dog fight at a bar in Macon County in February 2012, the indictment said.
Federal, state and local officials simultaneously served search warrants Friday to make arrests and seize dogs in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. Coffee County Sheriff David Sutton said the dogs at one Elba home were covered by fleas and were secured by heavy chains connected to car axles buried in the ground. Officials said some pit bulls were so malnourished their ribs were sticking out and others had wounds that required emergency care.
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