How the ASPCA rescued 23 pitbulls in a dog-fighting investigation

Animals rescuers and local police found the dogs, including seven puppies, in a home in Huntersville, N.C.

Following up on a tip that dogs at a house in Huntersville, N.C., had severe bite marks, authorities and animal rescuers on Tuesday discovered the sprawling property in disarray, along with 23 pit bulls, including seven puppies, secured using heavy chains.

When they arrived bearing a search warrant on a rainy morning, they discovered the dogs bore significant evidence of being involved in dog fighting. Some dogs were thin, while others had scars and bite marks, most likely from fighting, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said in a statement.

“That’s how they live their life. If they’re not fighting or being conditioned to fight they live their life on the end of a chain,” Kathryn Destreza, ASPCA director of investigations told local CBS affiliate WBTV.

A woman who described herself as the dog owner’s aunt told WBTV the dogs were not involved in dog fighting, but were being raised to be sold. One dog had a bite mark from a snake and was taken to a vet, she added.

But authorities found several pieces of paraphernalia commonly used in dog fighting, The Washington Post reports. Along with a treadmill encased in plywood, they found a so-called break stick, put into pit bulls’ mouths to help them break their grip on other dogs, and a “jenny,” a device where the dogs run in circles to train.

Following the search, the dogs were transported to an undisclosed location and given medical and behavioral evaluations, until the rescuers can determine who should care for them, according to the ASPCA. Eventually, a judge will decide what happens to the pit bulls; they can be seized, returned to the property owner, or adopted, the The Charlotte Observer reports.

Police in Huntersville, which is about 12 miles from downtown Charlotte, said the investigation was still ongoing, though no charges had been filed. “Everybody that lives on the property, and may frequent the property, is subject to investigation,” police Lieutenant Andrew Dempski told the Post.

People who live near the house, which is set far back from a busy street said they had no idea dogs were involved in fighting nearby. “You never expect people are fighting dogs,” neighbor Ryan Williams told the Observer. “That’s the last thing you’d expect from someone.”

ASPCA officials drew attention to the violence of dog-fighting, and the ordinariness of the routine that often accompanies the business of running a dog-fighting ring. Groups of pitbulls are often sheltered at a particular house, removed from the property and then replaced by new dogs, Ms. Destreza of the ASPCA told the Post.

“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.”

But, she told the Post, now the dogs were being examined, “the goal is always a happy goal – that’s what we work toward. We will do our best.”

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