305 Dogs Recovering After Rescue From Dogfighting Raid

More than 20 people were arrested in South Carolina on charges of animal cruelty and dogfighting.

dog on chain at alleged dogfighting operation
Dogs were found on heavy chains with makeshift shelters.

Meredith Lee / The HSUS

Animal rescue groups are now assisting more than 300 dogs rescued from an alleged dogfighting operation in South Carolina. 

The dogs were found with huge collars, heavily chained outside to trees or stakes with makeshift shelters. Others were housed in outdoor pens. Many of the animals were thin and had no obvious access to food or water, despite the hot weather, according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) which helped with the recovery.

The U.S. Department of Justice announced that more than 60 federal and state law enforcement officers executed nearly two dozen warrants on properties throughout the Columbia, South Carolina, area. A total of 305 dogs were rescued, with 275 believed to be linked with dogfighting. More than 20 people were arrested for state charges of animal cruelty and dogfighting.

According to federal officials, it was the largest dogfighting raid ever in the state.

Some of the dogs had extreme scarring, in addition to open wounds, cuts, and abscesses. Veterinarians assessed each dog and found several that had to be immediately removed from the properties for treatment because their condition was so serious.

Many of the dogs were chained outside with barrels as improvised shelter, while others were in wire cages. 

rescuer with dog found at alleged dogfighting operation

Meredith Lee / The HSUS

When rescuers arrived, some of the dogs wagged their tails and licked the people. Some cowered and were afraid to approach them.

“Seeing the animals in those conditions was overwhelming- the sounds of the heavy chains, the dogs whining, and the smell of the scene was difficult to take in,” Janell Gregory, South Carolina state director for the Humane Society of the United States, tells Treehugger.  

“It was incredible to witness the dogs being removed from those heavy chains and see them kiss their rescuers and wag their tails so hard their entire hind end would swing.” 

Injuries and Illegal Activity

Dog found caged in a pen with a puppy

Meredith Lee / The HSUS

Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 U.S. states, as well as the District of Columbia, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It’s also a felony under federal law.

Dogs are bred and trained to fight each other for profit and spectator entertainment. Dogs are typically paired off in a pit, while people gamble on the outcome. Dogs are often severely, and sometimes fatally, wounded. 

The dogs are specifically bred and conditioned for fighting from puppyhood. The HSUS says the animals are typically subjected to a lifetime of abuse and the events are often linked to other illegal activity including the sales of drugs and firearms.

“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.

Common injuries include deep puncture wounds, broken bones, and serious bruising. The animals can die from infection, shock, blood loss, dehydration, or exhaustion, sometimes days after a fight.

dog at alleged dogfighting operation

Meredith Lee / The HSUS

The newly rescued dogs from South Carolina have been moved to safe locations operated by the agencies involved in the seizure. They are receiving regular care and veterinary treatment.  During the exams, veterinarians are finding a lot of severe scarring and untreated wounds.

“Some dogs are starting to be up front at the kennel wagging their tails and seeking attention. Others are more cautious but taking treats and allowing all of the handling,” Jessica Johnson, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ animal rescue team, tells Treehugger. “They offer tail wags when they get head scratches and spray cheese for their exams.” 

Why This Matters to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. The better we understand our dogs, the better we can support and protect their well-being. We hope our readers will adopt rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores and will also consider supporting local animal shelters.

View Article Sources
  1. HSUS media release

  2. "Joint Operation Targets Massive Dogfighting Conspiracy." United States Department of Justice.

  3. Janell Gregory, South Carolina state director for the Humane Society of the United States

  4. "Dogfighting." American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

  5. "The Facts About Dogfighting." Humane Society.