Federal agents seized 63 dogs allegedly involved in a pitbull fighting ring in Eastman, Georgia.
According to the complaint filed in federal court, the dogs were seized after authorities conducted a traffic stop involving a vehicle inside of which an injured pitbull was found. The operator of the vehicle admitted to having been present at a dog fight in Eastman, Georgia, and provided officers with the location of the fight. At the reported location, agents discovered a disassembled dog fighting “pit” and more than 60 pitbulls staked to the ground by heavy chains. The condition of a majority of the dogs, including scarring and aggression towards other dogs, was consistent with dog fighting and related training.
After obtaining a search warrant, officers found numerous indications of pitbull fighting at the property, including a treadmill with a rope attached to the front part of the machine, antibiotics and other injectable veterinary medications, and a jenny mill, which is used to develop a dog’s endurance and musculature by enticing the animal to run on a circular track.
From four grave areas, agents unearthed the remains of seven pitbulls, five of which had scarring consistent with dog fighting and one of which had a broken leg. During the search, officers noted that none of the live animals had access to food, and most did not have access to water.
Following the seizure, the U.S. Marshals Service took custody of the animals. K2 Solutions, Inc. and the Humane Society of the U.S. are assisting with the care of the dogs, at least some of which are pregnant.
Pitbull fighting is a violent contest in which two dogs that are bred and conditioned for fighting are released by their owners or handlers in a controlled environment to attack each other and fight for purposes of entertainment or gambling. Fights usually end when one dog withdraws, when a handler “picks up” his dog and forfeits the match, or when one or both dogs die. Persons engaged in dog fighting typically use “pitbull” type dogs, which dog fighters prefer for their compact, muscular build, short coat, and the aggression that some display toward other dogs.
The Federal Animal Welfare Act makes it a felony punishable by up to 5 years in federal prison to fight dogs or to possess, train, buy, sell, deliver, receive, or transport them for that purpose. The statute further authorizes the seizure and forfeiture of animals involved in dog fighting. Once the dogs are forfeited or surrendered to federal agents, they can be evaluated and placed for adoption. Although federal funds will be used to pay for the care of the dogs while they remain in law enforcement custody, the Animal Welfare Act empowers the government to recover those costs from the dog’s owners.