20 arrested, 305 dogs rescued after feds take down dogfighting ring in SC

COLUMBIA, S.C. — At least 20 people were arrested and 305 dogs were rescued after the takedown of what officials in South Carolina are calling the largest dogfighting operation in state history.

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According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina, 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 of the state on Sept. 25.

Officers interrupted a scheduled dogfighting match one day earlier in Richland County, WACH-TV reported. Officers also executed warrants in York, Orangeburg, Clarendon, Lee and Sumter counties, which were known to have dogfighting kennels, prosecutors said.

Of the 305 dogs rescued, 275 were believed to be associated with dogfighting. The people arrested face charges relating to animal cruelty and dogfighting, authorities said.

Officers seized nearly 30 firearms, $40,000 in cash, and various pieces of evidence, WYFF-TV reported.

“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,” U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs said in a statement. “This joint operation, which has been months in the making, makes clear that dogfighting operations will find no refuge here in South Carolina. I especially want to thank our state and federal partners, the governor’s office, and our community partners for their leadership and work on this issue.”

The Humane Society of the United States and Bark Nation supported the operation, assisting with animal handling, WYFF reported. The agencies also are helping to care for the animals, according to the television station.

“Even after the many years we have worked to protect dogs from the calculated brutality that dogfighting perpetuates, our responders are still struck by the resilience of these dogs who have suffered unthinkable cruelty,” Kitty Block, president and chief executive officer of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement. “We are grateful to the federal and state officials for intervening on behalf of these dogs and for the opportunity to work together to get them the care they deserve.”