By: Sophia Hernandez | WCTV Eyewitness News
June 11, 2019
Top left to right: Leonard Safford, Dennis Howard, Zanntayfey Bennett, Bob Streets Bottom left to right: Randell Colston, Sariem McMillian, Jermaine Hadley and Devear Donaldson
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Tuesday morning, a federal grand jury charging eight individuals of Gadsden County with 83 counts of dog fighting offenses.
This operation, was investigated by the Drug Enforcement Administration, Homeland Security Investigations, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, The United States Marshals Service, the US Department of Agriculture, US Customs and Border Protection Air and Marine Operations, Gadsden County Sheriff's Office, Jackson County Sheriff's Office, Florida Highway Patrol, Chattahoochee Police Department, Tallahassee Police Department, Leon County Sheriff's Office, Calhoun's Sheriff Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, and Florida National Guard Counterdrug Program.
Since 2014, multiple operations have been found across North Florida.
Over 100 dogs were bought, bred and trained to fight. The Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young shares the reality, saying, "They are actually imported in here for one thing and that's to fight."
The dogs that are bought and bred for this purpose, are not your everyday pet.
Veterinarian Beth May, from the Quincy Animal Hospital, says these dogs become what the owner wants them to be.
"Some of them take really good care of them, because they have a lot of money riding on how they perform, but if they are a bait dog or one of the lesser ones they can be in pretty poor conditions," May explained.
The constant fighting that these dogs are put through takes a toll on their health. May expresses the kind of conditions these dogs can be found in, "Sometimes the injuries can be more than just superficial puncture wounds. Into the chest, into the abdomen, penetrating hernias, that kind of thing. broken ribs or broken bones."
Many Gadsden county residents, like Bobby Ellison, are appalled by Tuesday's news.
"I think that anybody that fights dogs should be prosecuted to the fullest, it ain't the dogs fault you making the dogs into something they are really not designed to be," Ellison said.
Law enforcement states that four of the eight arrested for the dog fighting operation are also involved with a drug trafficking operation, in which 12 individuals were indicted this May.
The money these individuals gain from the drug trade, is then used to buy, train, breed and bet on these dogs as they fight in the ring.
Resident Moses Brown says the correlation does not surprise him, saying, "You know crime is crime and people that are doing crime are doing other things."
The dogs are currently in federal custody and are said to be put in foster organizations across the state. The problem, as May expresses, is what becomes of the dogs when they leave the only environment they have ever known.
"Dogs that have been trained to fight, often times don't get along with other dogs well," she observes, "or are confused on having to be retrained on how to act."
Many hope, now that the fighting is over, these dogs can hopefully find a suitable home and a new chance at life.
The investigation is still ongoing, and the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office hope to make more arrests in the near future. Those charged could face up to five years in prison and pay fines up to $250,000 per conviction.
By: WCTV Eyewitness News
June 11, 2019
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Eight Gadsden County residents have been charged with federal dog fighting offenses, the United States Department of Justice announced on Tuesday.
The eight defendants have been identified as:
Officials say the indictment and arrests resulted from an investigation by the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force, a joint federal, state and local cooperative.
Authorities say the organization, usually targeting drug trafficking, allegedly organized a large-scale illegal dog fighting operation throughout the Northern District of Florida from 2014 through 2019.
Officials say the operation saw search warrants executed on properties where illegal dog fighting allegedly was taking place.
In all, according to authorities, approximately 100 dogs were recovered and seized.
Authorities say the charged defendants face penalties up to five years imprisonment and fines up to $250,000 per count.
Officials also say four defendants - Hadley, Donaldson, McMilan and Colston - were indicted on federal counts for allegedly distributing illegal drugs, including methamphetamine, cocaine and MDMA, throughout north and central Florida in 2018 and 2019.