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An arduous, tiring three-year investigation and multi-state dog-fighting bust led to the rescue of 367 pitbull terriers and the arrest and indictment of 10 people in Alabama, Georgia, Texas, and Mississippi this past weekend, ABC News reports.  The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) assisted in the rescue on Friday, August 23rd.  The dogs were seized at the request of the United States Attorney’s Office.

Authorities also seized over $500,000 from the dog fighters involved in the organization, as well as guns, illegal narcotics, and drugs used to train the dogs. According to US Attorney George Beck, Jr., the defendants were betting from $2,000 to upwards of $50,000 per fight.  Beck said in a statement, “The number of dogs seized and the amount of money involved in this case shows how extensive this underworld of dog fighting is.  These dog fighters abuse, starve and kill their dogs for the supposed ‘fun’ of watching and gambling on a dog fight. Their behavior is deplorable, will not be tolerated, and will be punished to the full extent of the law.”

USA Today reports that the defendants are being charged with conspiring to promote and sponsor dog fights and arranging for dogs to be at the fights in several south and east Alabama counties and in Holly Springs, MS., between 2009 and 2013.  Most of the defendants are also charged with conducting an illegal gambling ring.  An indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Opelika states that one defendant is charged with winning $35,000 at a dog fight in Waverly in August of 2011.  Two others were stopped by AUTHOROTIES with $12,000 cash on hand after attending a February 2012 dog fight in a bar in Wacon County.

Officials for the ASPCA as well as the Humane Society of the US said that the organizations are caring for the animals at undisclosed locations, and that they will have to remain to be used as evidence as the case progresses.  They eventually hope to retrain the dogs and find them loving homes.

“They are finally getting a loving hand from responders who care about these dogs, but sadly there are many other dogs out there going through this type of abuse,” saId ASPCA Vice President Tim Rickey, who also said that this was among the largest case ever and was as significant as the “Missouri 500” case in 2009, where nearly 500 dogs were seized in Missouri, and some in surrounding states.

Image credit: stephskardal/Flickr