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Largest dogfighting ring in South Carolina history broken up

A joint investigation by Midlands law enforcement divisions, federal agencies and the Humane Society culminated at Richland County dogfighting match

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A joint team of more than 60 state and federal law enforcement officers took part in breaking up what is believed to be the largest dogfighting operation in South Carolina history over the September 24th weekend. 

According to reports, officers interrupted a scheduled dogfighting match in Richland County on Saturday. On Sunday, officers then executed search warrants at 23 residences and properties in Richland, York, Orangeburg, Clarendon, Lee, and Sumter counties known for their association with dogfighting. During the process, 305 dogs were rescued -- 275 of which were believed to be used in fighting -- and 20 individuals were arrested. The Humane Society of the United States and Bark Nation are assisting with care and handling of the animals.

RELATED: Dog fighting ring bust frees more than 300 dogs: What happens to them now?

Officers also seized approximately 30 firearms, $40,000 in cash, and various evidence related to dogfighting during the weekend operation.

“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. “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.”

Mark Keel, Chief of South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), said the agency often finds guns, illicit drugs, human trafficking, and child abuse are involved with instances of animal abuse. "Dog fighting is both inhumane and illegal," he said. "It will not be tolerated.”

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.

This is the first step in a continuing investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General and SLED. The U.S. Marshals Service, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Richland County Sheriff’s Department, York County Sheriff’s Office, Rock Hill Police Department, Indiana Gaming Commission, and Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Criminal Investigations Division are also assisting in the investigation.

If you have any information on dogfighting operations here in South Carolina, please call 1-800-424-9121.

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