YORK COUNTY, S.C. — More than 300 dogs were seized Sunday morning in an operation to combat illegal breeding and fighting dogs in York County and other South Carolina counites, authorities said.
A joint team of more than 60 federal and state law enforcement officers executed nearly two dozen warrants for various properties in the Midlands area. The operation is believed to be the biggest takedown of a dogfighting operation in South Carolina history.
Officers with the operation interrupted a scheduled dogfighting match in Richland County on Saturday. The next morning, the officers executed 23 search warrants at various residences and properties in Richland, York, Orangeburg, Clarendon, Lee, and Sumter Counties that were known dogfighting kennels or associated with dogfighting, authorities said.
“To force dogs to fight, often to the death, for the enjoyment of others is not only a federal crime, it is also cruel, sadistic, and can create a haven for other illicit activities involving drugs and firearms,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs.
Of the 305 dogs were rescued this weekend, 275 are believed to be associated with dogfighting.
The Humane Society of the United States and Bark Nation supported the operation, assisting with animal handling and are currently assisting with the care of the animals, a release said. Officers seized approximately 30 firearms, $40,000 in cash, and various evidence related to dogfighting, authorities said. Over 20 individuals were arrested on state charges relating to animal cruelty and dogfighting.
The Animal Welfare Act makes it a felony punishable by up to five years in federal prison to fight dogs or to possess, train, sell, buy, deliver, receive, or transport dogs intended for use in dogfighting.
At a property in York, approximately 50 pit bull dogs and 30 beagles were found. The sheriff’s office said the dogs were taken by York County Animal Control and a contract company that specializes in rescuing fighting dogs.
“Animal cruelty on any level is disturbing,” said Sheriff Kevin Tolson. “We’re grateful to work with all levels of law enforcement to combat the evilness of animal fighting. I urge the courts to help render justice from this point moving forward.”
Authorities said three people in York were arrested on other charges in connection to stolen property and various narcotics charges.
(WATCH BELOW: ‘Absolutely horrific’: Dozens of dogs seized from possible dogfighting ring in Gastonia)
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