When authorities and animals rescuers arrived on the sprawling property in Huntersville, N.C., on Tuesday morning, they found the kinds of tools and equipment commonly associated with dog fighting. There was a break stick, put into pit bulls’ mouths to help them release their grips on other dogs. There was a treadmill. And there was a “jenny” on which dogs run in circles to train.
There also were 23 pit bulls, including seven puppies, according to the Huntersville Police Department.
Officials received a tip about a property with numerous dogs “showing signs of bite marks and other injuries associated with dog fighting,” the department said in a release.
Authorities executed a search warrant on the rainy morning at multiple residences on the property, Lt. Andrew Dempski said. No charges have been filed in the investigation, which is still active.
“Everybody that lives on the property, and may frequent the property, is subject to investigation,” Dempski said.
Animal control officials and members of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals accompanied police during the raid. Kathryn Destreza, ASPCA’s director of investigation, saw the dog training paraphernalia and dogs, some of which had bite marks and were kept on heavy chain leashes and in cages.
“They’re alive, but they are in various states of medical conditions,” she said. “They’re not pets by any means, not like your dog, but they’re currently going through their medical evaluations.”
The 23 dogs are being kept at an undisclosed location during the investigation and are being examined for any medical or behavioral issues. “The goal is always a happy goal — that’s what we work toward,” Destreza said. “We will do our best.”
Destreza said dog fighting is a “violent crime” that involves “neglect and cruelty that the dogs have to live with.”
In this case, someone who called in the tip saw the bite marks on the dogs, but that’s not always the most common sign of a nefarious operation, Destreza said. Typically in dog fighting, groups of pit bulls are housed, removed from a property and replaced by new groups, she added.
“The general public doesn’t think a violent crime is happening right next door to them,” Destreza said. “The reality is, dog fighting happens everywhere, in every community. It could be anywhere.”