SUMTER COUNTY, Ga. – Eight people are under arrest on charges stemming from investigation into a dog fighting operation. Over the past few months, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office has been investigating a multi-state gambling organization centered around the illegal fighting of pit bulls.
Officers searched a warrant for a property in a rural portion of Sumter County this weekend. Officers say dog fights last for an hour to an hour and a half. They say gate admission is usually $100 per person.
Authorities made six arrests Saturday night and say they plan to have 15 to 20 arrests by the end of their investigation due to people fleeing from the scene. Over the weekend, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office seized eight vehicles, multiple guns, and about $18,000 in cash.
Three pit bulls were rescued from the scene.
“They’re not trained as a family pet. They train to fight and to win. As long as they win, they get big money,” said Sumter County Sheriff Pete Smith.
Sheriff Smith says the dogs that don’t win are typically killed after the fight if they survive the fight. At least one dog was found dead during the raid.
“They do everything that they can to hide from the law. They don’t take these dogs to the vet. They shoot them full of penicillin or something to try to ease the pain. We try to find them out in the county. The last two I remember were on the railroad track,” Sheriff Smith said.
Ralph Stuart with the Sheriff’s Office says the standard bet per dog is usually between 15,000 to 60,000 dollars.
“It could be 60,000 dollars per dog. If you have three matches in one night, that’s 360,000 dollars cash that’s on site at these places,” Stuart said.
He says cash is the only type of payment collected at dog fighting rings. Due to the secretive nature of these fights, locations could be announced within a matter of minutes.
“That money comes from somewhere and obviously it competes with regular businesses when it’s on the street because some of these people are gainfully employed and this is not their full-time job. It just makes you wonder who can come up with 60,000 dollars in a minutes notice,” Stuart said.
The six people arrested on scene of the raid were from Georgia. Two more were arrested during a traffic stop on Sunday. One was from Georgia and one was from Florida.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture assisted in the investigation along with the Lee, Jones, and Coffee County Sheriff’s Offices. The investigation continues with help from several agencies in North Florida, Southeast Georgia, and South Carolina.
The homeowners weren’t home at the time of the raid, but are being questioned. The suspects arrested could serve anywhere from five to 20 years federal time if convicted.