Officials at a local animal shelter are reaching out to big-name rescue organizations to help a group of dogs found in the midst of what's described as an amateur fighting ring.
According to court documents filed in Autauga County District Court, on December 1, 2013, ten pit bull/pit bull mixes were confiscated from a home on North Pickett Street in Autaugaville.
Autauga County Sheriff Officers arrived at the location on an investigation involving a stolen ATV and stumbled upon the abused animals.
"These dogs were observed chained to trees without food, some without water. These dogs had visible injuries believed to be related to dog fighting... When these dogs were located, there was a dog fighting pin as well as decaying dog carcasses located a short distance away from where these animals were being stored," court documents state.
The canines were taken to the Prattville-Autauga Humane Society where they have received medical attention.
"They were malnourished. Some of them had scars and looked like they'd been fighting. One had a broken knee, another had a terrible abscess. We believe one of them was used as a bait dog," Claudia Rigsby, shelter manager.
"When they came in, they were in horrible shape- scared, cold, shaking," said Sandra Moon, kennel manager. "The first day they came in, everyone was in tears. It's horrible for somebody to even try to attempt to put on a dog fight. That's the worst possible thing you could do."
Over the past few weeks, they have been recovering from their wounds and illnesses and have been showered with love and affection from the staff. They also received names after members of the staff saw the dogs referred to as "Pit 1, Pit 2," etc. in court documents.
In an order from Autauga County District Court Judge Joy Booth, the Autauga humane shelter was given permission on December 20, 2013 for seven of the ten dogs to be put up for adoption. Six of the dogs were noted as being "friendly." One was labeled "skittish but not dangerous or aggressive."
The shelter is now working with the Anti-DogFighting Campaign in an effort to place the dogs in good homes. The Anti-DogFighting Campaign is an organization made up of several Anti-Dogfighting Advocates (ADA's) located worldwide and who devote their time to combating the issues of dog fighting.
Judge Booth ordered three of the dogs "be disposed of in a humane manner" after visiting the shelter, hearing evidence and reviewing reports on their temperaments and tendencies. Two of the condemned animals were labeled "indifferent" or "very shut down" as well as "not good with other dogs" in reports and one has extensive injuries.
But the staff at the shelter says the dogs have shown a lot of improvement since being removed from their abusive and violent environment. They would like to see all 10 dogs have a future.
"We've been ordered to put three down but we would really like to explore some options. If we could get them in a rescue that knows the breed and could take care of their emotional and physical problems, possibly, maybe we could get them adopted out one day," Rigsby told WSFA Friday.
She's reached out to the Villalobos Rescue Center in New Orleans, a rescue, rehabilitation and placement facility for abused and abandoned Pit Bulls made popular on the reality show Pit Bulls and Parolees on Animal Planet to see if they can help with the situation.
"I'm glad the dogs are here. I'm glad we were able to get them away from the situation they were in. Now, we need to find them a home. It breaks my heart that people are this mean to do things to animals but they did. Hopefully we'll get them in the homes they need to be in so this will never happen to them again. It's horrible. They're all wonderful dogs. They really are,' Rigsby said.
"I want these dogs to be able to go to bed at night knowing that they have a warm bed and then get up in the morning knowing that they have someone there that's going to hold them close and love them and play with them and spend time with them like they need," Moon added.
Autauga County Sheriff's officials were not available for comment Friday on their ongoing investigation into the alleged dog fighting ring. The animal control officer who is handing the case declined to comment.
Rigsby said it was believed to be an amateur operation. She is not aware of any arrests in the case.
She says dog fighting is a problem, particularly in rural Alabama areas.
"People don't realize it but it's out there. And if more people would step up and tell on these people maybe we could get it stopped but there's a lot of money at stake. That's why it happens," she said.
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