The Humane Society of the United States is assisting the Gaston County Police Department in rescuing several dogs from an alleged dogfighting operation on a property in Gaston County, North Carolina.

Local authorities served a search and seizure warrant on a 1.5-acre property at approximately 7:15 a.m. Seven dogs were found covered in fleas and have visible scarring, consistent with injuries typically seen in dogfighting cases. The dogs were found living outside on heavy, weighted chains and did not have access to adequate shelter: only blue barrels and dilapidated wooden shacks. Despite the poor conditions the dogs were found suffering in, rescuers from the Humane Society of the United States noted that the dogs wagged their tails and were eager for attention.

The Humane Society of the United States is transporting the rescued animals to an undisclosed location where they will continue to receive veterinary exams and evaluations.  

“It is gut-wrenching to imagine the violence and pain these dogs have been forced to endure,” said Gail Thomssen, North Carolina state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We are thankful to the Gaston County Police Department for getting these dogs desperately needed help. Thanks to everyone involved, today is the last day that these dogs will have to live like this.”

The Gaston County Police Department requested the assistance of the HSUS after concerns about the welfare of animals on the property were raised.

“The dedicated officers of the Gaston County Police Department and Animal Care & Enforcement have taken this allegation of dogfighting very seriously,” said Captain Billy Downey of the Gaston County Police Department. “Members of various units within the Gaston County Police have worked together to thoroughly investigate this situation and arrest the organizer of this alleged dogfighting ring. This is an active and on-going investigation we will continue to pursue.”

Dogfighting is currently a Class H felony in North Carolina, but more tools are needed to crack down on this violent criminal industry. In May 2021, the North Carolina House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 544, sponsored by Rep. Carsen Smith (R-16), a former sheriff. North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association has supported this bill. As passed, the bill prohibits minors from attending dogfights or cockfights, but discussions are already underway to strengthen the bill in the Senate by including a ban on the manufacture, possession or sale of dogfighting paraphernalia and training equipment.

In addition to the brutality inflicted on dogs forced to fight, dogfighting has been found to co-occur with other crimes such as weapons and human trafficking; some dogfighting operations have been tied to gang activity and drug cartels.

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