It was just after dawn when the Gaston County Police Department served a search and seizure warrant on a residential property in North Carolina last week. In the yard, makeshift enclosures made of wire and wood confined scared and skittish dogs.

Our Animal Rescue Team was on the scene to help the local Animal Care and Enforcement Unit in rescuing all 14 of these poor dogs, many of whom had visible scars consistent with injuries seen from dogfighting. A local veterinarian gently examined the dogs immediately so that they could be cleared for transport to a safe, undisclosed location where our experts are helping them continue to recover physically and emotionally.

A dog found on the scene of an alleged dogfighting situation tries to see out of his enclosure.
Meredith Lee/The HSUS

While the number of dogs involved in this dogfighting situation seems small, we have reason to believe that their suffering was immense and drawn out: Veterinary exams revealed old injuries and puncture wounds, skin conditions and missing hair. Some dogs suffered from infections on their paws. One pup’s tail appeared to have been broken in three places, and some of the dogs had pieces of flesh missing from their lips and ears. Most were underweight.

A representative from the Gaston County District Attorney’s Office was also on the scene, and dogfighting paraphernalia was found throughout the property. We can only speculate about the horrifying experiences these dogs have undergone, but their days of living in fear are over.

Animal fighting hurts everyone involved; such spectacles of cruelty and suffering wreak havoc on communities and have been found to co-occur with other crimes related to weapons and even human trafficking. In dogfights, dogs who have been bred, conditioned, trained and forced to fight face each other in a pit. The fights often last one to two hours, ending when one of the dogs can no longer continue. Though dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states, the inhumane spectacles draw crowds of spectators (often including children) who bet on the outcomes.

Shalimar Oliver, animal crimes case manager for the HSUS, helps examine the dogs after their rescue.
Eric Kayne/AP Images for the HSUS

Our team previously worked with the Gaston County Police Department in 2021 to save dogs from another suspected dogfighting situation. It is our honor that we were able to help the local authorities to again crack down on animal cruelty and to give these dogs the care they need. While we are still in the initial stages of providing veterinary treatment and addressing the immediate needs of these dogs, we hope this represents the start of beautiful new lives for them. In order to ensure good outcomes for these dogs, our experts are ensuring that we give them time to learn how to trust people again.

You can make a difference for animals saved from crisis situations like this one by making a donation.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.