Details Emerge from Investigation
UPDATE 11/16/08: Details emerging from the investigation indicate an elaborate underground web involving dozens of people, including some from Latin America. Authorities have already seized 187 animals from Harris, Montgomery and Tyler counties connected to the operation. Detailed records kept by those involved should help authorities prosecute the eight people arrested and the 47 other suspects who have been indicted, but not yet arrested.
Records seized from a 2006 Liberty County raid where nearly 300 pit bulls were seized have aided the expanding investigation. "They keep a lot of paperwork -- journals of fights, etc.," said Harris County Pct. 6 Sgt. P. Leone, who works with the Houston Humane Society's Rescuing Animals In Danger Education Resource program. "We've found crates used to ship the dogs internationally, to places like Guatemala and Honduras."
While some dogs seized Friday were in fairly decent condition, dogs seized from other sites were not as fortunate. "It's very obvious that these are not pets," Leon said, adding that the animals are "conditioned" to fight. Leon also pointed out that "size doesn't matter" to high performance fighting dogs. "You would think the bigger, stronger dogs would be the most desirable, but they're not. It's the smaller, more agile ones that are the fighters."
All of the animals seized during the investigation are being held at undisclosed locations for their safety and to prevent the owners from finding them. "They are worth a fair amount of money. Pups go for $350, $400, $500. And those with champion-type bloodlines can go for $1,500 to $3,000," Leone said. They are being cared for by the SPCA, Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services and the Houston Humane Society.
A judge will decide the dogs' fate. Leon thinks many of the dogs will be euthanized. "Some of the dogs may be people friendly, but the question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you'd want your 3-year-old child around the dog," said Leone." Our point exactly.
11/15/08: Fighters and Spectators Caught on Video
Houston, TX - In a dogfighting bust that ought to send Texas dogfighters scurrying for cover, multiple agencies raided an east Houston warehouse after a 15-month undercover operation. "It’s the largest undercover dogfighting operation in the country," said Assistant Harris County D.A. Belinda Smith. "And nothing like this has ever been done in Houston, or in Texas." Arrests are expected for 85 people in multiple counties on over 155 felony charges.
After gaining the trust of key "dogmen," undercover agents set up shop in an east Houston warehouse where they staged dog fights virtually every weekend. All kinds of people showed up for the fights including a school teacher with no criminal history, several individuals from the oil industry and people who’ve been arrested for capital murder, narcotics dealers and bank robbers. Dogfighting participants reaches across all boundaries.
Undercover agents took disturbing video of the dogfights. "What you see is animals bloodied, battered and bruised screaming in pain," Smith said. "Animals that are staggering in the ring. Other animals who are trying to climb out of the ring." Hundreds of dogs are being seized. The fate of the dogs is unknown. The investigation, called Operation Dead Game, was a joint effort between DPS, the USDA and the Harris County District Attorney’s office.
One video shows the Houston Humane Society seizing some of the fighting dogs. It's fair to say these dogs are both highly unsocialized and animal aggressive. It seems unlikely that any will make "safe, suitable pets." Time will only tell what the agencies will to do with these dogs.
10/29/08: Multicounty Dogfighting Ring Busted up in Georgia
09/27/08: Dogfighting Operation Busted; All Seized Dogs Euthanized