Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dog-fighting operation near Columbia raided

By Sammy Fretwell, from The Post & Courier

Authorities have broken up a large dog-fighting operation in an area of northern Richland County that has drawn scrutiny in the past over drug-dealing and pit-bull fighting.

Acting on a tip, deputies raided a dog fight off Campground Road late Thursday. People watching the fight fled, and some dogs scattered through the wooded area of rolling hills and mobile homes north of Interstate 20.

Stanley W. Taylor Jr., 23, was jailed after being charged with two counts of violating the animal fighting and baiting act.

Deputies spent part of Thursday night and Friday seeking other suspects and rounding up loose dogs, Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said. Deputies had seized 24 dogs by Friday.

"This was a large-scale dog-fighting operation that we feel has been going on for some time," Lott said Friday.

He said he knows from personal experience that dog-fighting was occurring in the area near Campground Road, but it had been difficult to locate pit-bull fights until the department received Thursday's tip about barking dogs.

During the past five years, Lott said he has found about 15 dead pit bulls on hunting land he owns not far from Campground Road. "These were pit bulls. They were killed either in the dog-fighting, or were unsuccessful (fighters), and were killed by the owners and were just dumped."

Most of the dogs seized this week were pit bulls, the main animals used in dog fights. Lott said the seized dogs were being kept at an undisclosed location as the investigation unfolds.

When authorities arrived at the fight scene Thursday, they found some dogs chained up and others running loose, the sheriff said.

Court records show the Campground Road area has a history of dog-fighting activity.

According to a 2003 federal court transcript, a mobile home on Campground Road was used to receive drugs from Georgia and keep pit bulls bred for sale to dog-fighters.

Update: September 12, 2011 - The following article is by Jason Old, from WCSC:

Dog fighting bust pushes other dogs out of shelter

A dog fighting bust last week has had a potentially deadly ripple-effect inside the Midlands animal shelter community.

One Midlands animal shelter needs help taking care of at least 30 dogs displaced from Richland County's animal shelter by dozens of dogs confiscated from a dog fighting bust that took place last week.

On September 8, deputies stumbled upon a dog fight taking place in a wooded area off of Camp Ground Rd. in North Columbia. When the people running the fight saw law enforcement, they all scattered. 30 dogs, mostly pit bulls, were confiscated from the scene.

Animal control ordinances in Richland County dictate that the dogs from the fighting ring must be held at Richland County Animal Care. In order to make room for the confiscated fighting dogs, the county shelter needed to move or euthanize dozens of dogs.

Pawmetto Lifeline stepped in and offered to care for and provide shelter or foster homes to the displaced dogs. The shelter sent out an urgent plea Friday evening to try to help the pups. The shelter said it needs at least $200 per dog to ensure that it can cover the housing and medical care of the canines.

Had Pawmetto Lifeline not intervened, it is possible those dogs would have been put down by Richland County Animal Care because the confiscated pit bulls have to be kept alive during the investigation into the fighting ring.

Over the weekend, the shelter raised almost half the money it believes it needs to save the original shelter dogs. Some of the dogs are available for adoption, but several of them need medical care before being considered. Click here to contact Pawmetto Lifeline.

One person was arrested in the raid, but deputies are still searching for the people who ran from the fight.

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