Authorities have broken up a four-state dog fighting ring, confiscated more than 350 pit bull terriers, and arrested 12 people on charges of illegal gambling and dog fighting.
More than 350 dogs, many emaciated or wounded, have been taken to temporary shelters, according to a statement issued by the ASPCA, which was called on by the US Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to transport and treat the animals along with The Humane Society of the United States.
The ASPCA told CNN that this is the second-largest dog fighting ring bust in US history.
“The dogs, ranging in age from just several days to 10-12 years, had been left to suffer in extreme heat with no visible fresh water or food. Many are emaciated with scars and wounds consistent with dog fighting, and some were tethered by chains and cables that were attached to cinder blocks and car tires,” the ASPCA said in a statement.
The August 26 bust represents the culmination of a three-year investigation by the Auburn Police Department in Alabama, reports WAAY TV, a local ABC affiliate. Authorities confiscated firearms, drugs and $500,000 the local station reports. Investigators also recovered treadmills, a large trailer used to transport dogs, training equipment, and dog medicine.
The defendents have been charged with conspiring to promote and sponsor dog fights as well as conducting an illegal gambling business.
"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.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.