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How to Help the Dogs Saved From the Largest Dog-Fighting Ring in South Carolina’s History

Here’s here you can donate to help these pups — plus who to call if you know more information.

by Sio Hornbuckle
October 3, 2022
a Pit bull dog, emaciated from lack of food, and chained to a tree int he woods outside, with a humane society volunteer
Photo: Meredith Lee / The Humane Society of the United States 2022

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Last week, authorities busted the largest dog-fighting ring in South Carolina’s history. With the help of Bark Nation and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), law enforcement officers saved more than 305 dogs and arrested more than 20 people following the execution of search warrants in 10 properties known to be associated with dogfighting. 

At the time of these arrests, U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs said the following in a statement: “To force dogs to fight, often to the death, for the enjoyment of others is not only a federal crime, it is also cruel, sadistic, and can create a haven for other illicit activities involving drugs and firearms.”

As anyone who’s so much as glanced at U.S. history will tell you, when it comes to things to be ashamed of, countless events make the list. Making dogs fight for sport is definitely one of them. Dogfighting was born in this country before the start of the Civil War. And though the practice was outlawed by most states around that time, it took on newfound popularity in the 20th century.

The heinous, inhumane practice landed on most modern American’s radars in 2007, when former NFL quarterback Michael Vick plead guilty to funding a dog-fighting ring and its related gambling operation. He also admitted to being complicit in the death of six dogs. He was released from federal prison in 2009.

At the time of Vick’s conviction, Ed Sayres, then president and CEO of the ASCPA said, in part: “It is gratifying to see federal authorities taking an active role in investigating dogfighting, which is a felony offense in 48 states, and something that we in the animal welfare world take extremely seriously indeed. Federal charges in dogfighting are extremely rare, and we applaud the authorities for giving this crime the attention it deserves.”

Fifteen years later, dogfighting is illegal in all 50 states, thanks to the Animal Welfare Act. But that doesn’t mean this deplorable practice isn’t still taking place in the U.S.

An Ongoing Problem

It’s clear that this inhumane treatment of dogs isn’t going away, despite it being literally illegal across the country. The HSUS estimates that “more than 40,000 people participate in organized dogfighting in the U.S.,” and The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states that “[dogfighting[ continues to occur in every part of the country and in every type of community.” 

Busting dogfighting doesn’t only save dog lives — where there is dogfighting there is often other criminal activity.

“Law enforcement often finds that guns, illicit drugs, human trafficking, and child abuse are involved with instances of animal abuse,” Mark Keel, the chief of the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division, told local news station WYFF. In last week’s case, officers uncovered 30 firearms and $40,000 in cash, in addition to the 305 dogs rescued in South Carolina.

What You Can Do to Help

Bark Nation is continuing to care for 26 dogs rescued dogs, including providing their medical and behavioral care. Their “P2 Crew” is composed of 70 volunteers and receives no federal funding for their work. You can donate to help their efforts here

Red Rover, an organization dedicated to emergency animal care, is assisting the HSUS with caring for 45 dogs. You can donate to Red Rover here and the Humane Society here.

If you have further information regarding dogfighting in South Carolina, you can call 1-800-424-9121 to reach the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act.

It’s important to note that most dogs rescued from dog-fighting busts can be rehabilitated. They are often forced to fight against their will and after being rescued, turn out to be total love bugs. The “Vicktory Dogs” rescued from Vick’s operation were proof of that, and were featured in the 2015 documentary, The Champions. We’ll report back when the dogs currently being rehabilitated by Bark Nation and HSUS are adoptable.

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Sio Hornbuckle

Sio Hornbuckle is a writer living in New York City with their cat, Toni Collette.