Based on an anonymous tip, police in Apopka, Florida arrested 26 people in a bust of a dog fighting ring. The police staged their raid as a dog fighting event was ongoing. Officers estimate that approximately 40 people were in attendance at the time of the bust. Police used dogs and tasers to chase down and subdue members of the crowd watching the fight.
The City of Apopka is located about 15 miles northwest of Orlando. Police believe that the members of the dog fighting ring have been active setting up fights throughout Central Florida. The informant told officials that the ring used social media to set up and publicize the fights. Police found a training room in the back of the house where the bust occurred. The training room contained a punching bag and a dog treadmill. Police believe that the trainers would have the dogs jump up to bite the punching bag as a fight training tool.
The house had been under police observation for over two months. Police waited until they knew a dog fight was in progress before making the bust. By waiting until an actual dog fight was occurring, law enforcement officials could take down more suspects and levy more serious charges against those apprehended. Police say cars lined the street next to the house and some of the cars contained more dogs to be used in the fighting.
Animal Services rescued 34 dogs from the fighting operation. The dogs will be held in isolation for an unspecified period of time. Some may be adopted, but Animal Services must first evaluate the dogs to determine their suitability for adoption. Law enforcement officials also found caged chickens, a raccoon and a rabbit in the backyard. Officers speculate that the other animals were used to agitate the dogs. Many of the dogs saved from the fighting ring were in poor health. Police also found marijuana plants being grown in the backyard of the residence. Police also think the backyard contains the buried remains of fighting dogs. Most of the dogs rescued were pit bulls or a pit bull mix specifically bred for fighting. Officers say the dogs were friendly to their rescuers but not to each other.
When police arrived, the crowd quickly scattered. Those arrested in the bust of the Florida dog fighting ring were from Apopka, Sanford, Winter Garden, Daytona and Holly Hill. Two children present in the residence were sent to stay with their grandparents under the supervision of child welfare officials.
Florida criminal law categorizes dog fighting as a third-degree felony, which carry a possible five year prison sentence. The investigation and resulting bust of the Florida dog fighting ring was a successful law enforcement effort to help curb the activity. The bust may push other dog fight organizers further underground. Holding a dog fight event in a residential neighborhood and using social media to coordinate activities likely shows the organizers felt somewhat safe to carry on their fights. With the bust this week, others engaged in dog fighting in Central Florida are likely looking over their shoulders.
By William Costolo