Local animal shelter leaders speak out on dog fighting

Local animal shelter leaders speak out on dog fighting
Animal shelter leaders are shedding light on how these animals can be rehabilitated. (Source: Katrina Helmer).
Animal shelter leaders are shedding light on how these animals can be rehabilitated. (Source: Katrina Helmer).
Shelter officials speak out about dog fighting (Source: Katrina Helmer).
Shelter officials speak out about dog fighting (Source: Katrina Helmer).

GEORGETOWN COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - Sadly, dog fighting is not a thing of the past. Local law enforcement executed two search warrants on a suspected dog fighting ring in January. Now, the dog rescued from the fight ring is being taken care of at a local animal shelter.

Based partially on citizen complaints, agents with the 15th circuit Drug Enforcement Unit and Georgetown County Sheriff's Office raided a dog fighting ring in the Sampit community of Georgetown County on January 28. As of February 6, all seven suspects connected to the crime are under arrest and facing charges. Agents also seized illegal drugs and stolen property.

Jordan is the sole surviving pit bull rescued from the dog fighting ring. "I know for a fact that they are lovers not fighters," says Brad Floyd, the executive director at St. Frances Animal Center.

Jordan, compared to most of the dogs in the shelter, is calm and quiet. She rarely barks and just wants to be as close as possible to any human. It's hard to believe that she was trained to kill.

"The sport of dog fighting is one of those that they literally train these animals to destroy other dogs. And the injuries that result from dog fighting are generally so severe that the animals don't survive," says Floyd. That is the case for the other dog brought in from the raid. The dog suffered a severe back break and was in excruciating pain. The shelter vets made the decision to put the dog down.

It is a misconception that once a dog is involved in a dog fighting ring, then it must be put down. But that's not always the case. As long as the dog passes behavior and temperament tests, it's allowed to be adopted. When it comes to Jordan, shelter leaders are hoping to rehabilitate her. They will monitor her in different stressful environments to see if she shows any aggression towards things like food, other animals, or people. Floyd says it is typical for dogs rescued from fighting to be very comfortable with humans and less comfortable with other animals. They're trained to fight in order to earn affection from their owners. So while it may take some rehabilitation to be comfortable around other animals or triggers, being with humans tends to be a sense of comfort and safety.

"Lots of times, they cannot be around other animals, but they can be rehabilitated in homes that they are the primarily the only animal there. But they're not all doomed. They can be rehabilitated," says Floyd.

The hope for Jordan is that as the judicial process unfolds, they can put her in a home. But it is ultimately up to the courts to make that determination. If she is allowed to be adopted, she'll need to be in a home where she's the only dog to avoid any unwanted stressors.

"It is a community issue, because it's not just dog fighting. You're generally going to find drugs, illegal gambling, stolen property on occasion," says Floyd.

In attempts to keep these crimes from your neighborhood, here are some signs of dog fighting you should look out for:

*An excessive number of the pit bull or terrier dog breeds all in one place. Look for them to be chained up, unsocial, with visible scars.

*Training equipment like treadmills or tires hanging from tree limbs.

*Unusual foot traffic during odd hours on the property.

Always contact your local law enforcement office or dog warden if you notice something out of the ordinary.

In the state of South Carolina, dog fighting is a felony offense. That goes for anyone breeding the dogs for this purpose or fighting the dogs. For a spectator, it is a misdemeanor for the first two offenses, then a felony for the third. The Humane Society of the United States has an ongoing $5,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of dog fighting.

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