GEORGE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - After more than 20 dogs were seized last week from an alleged dogfighting ring in George County, some residents wondered if their missing pets could be among those rescued. If that's you, you should contact the George County Sheriff's Office directly and someone will help you. Officials working with the animals say they have all been checked for microchips, and none were found.
The dogs were moved over the weekend to a new, temporary shelter by volunteers from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. There, the animals will receive medical care and "behavioral enrichment" until they can be properly placed with rescue groups or made available for adoption.
"The George County Sheriff's Office appreciates the assistance received from the ASPCA, Dixie Adoptables and the Southern Hinds County Animal Shelter," said George County Sheriff Keith Harvard. "This is an example of federal, state, and local agencies working together to make our communities safer. It is our hope that this new partnership will continue to benefit the citizens of George County, and that opportunities to build on the teamwork established here will afford our community more resources for fighting animal crimes, and the criminal activities that surround that lifestyle."
Investigators discovered the animals after receiving an anonymous tip. The dogs included some as young as just a few months old, some who were pregnant, and even two tiny puppies that were chained up outside.
The sheriff said investigators could see they had been used for fighting just by looking at them, adding that some of the dogs' wounds were as recent as this week.
"They hadn't been taken care of," said Sheriff Havard. "Some of the dogs were malnourished. They were out on the property on chains, they weren't in cages or anything like that."
"This was just, it's a horrible situation," said Angie Green with Dixie Adoptables, an animal rescue group in George County that operates out of the Lucedale Animal Shelter. Her team was called in to assist.
"We had to come out and help rescue these guys," said Green. "It's a horrible situation but that's what we do. We're there to help and to make sure the animals are secure and okay."
"We've seen time and time again that dogfighting is rampant across the country and we commend the George County Sheriff's Office for investigating and taking swift action to end this horrific form of cruelty," said Kathryn Destreza, Investigations Director of the ASPCA Field Investigations & Response team. "Being tied to heavy chains and being forced to fight only to feed their owner's greed is no way to live. We're pleased to be able to assist local authorities in providing resources, expertise and caring for these animals until we can determine suitable placement options and give many of them the second chance they deserve."
Kofi B. Riley, 38, of George County, was arrested on the suspicion of running a dog fighting ring, possession of narcotics and stolen property. Riley made his initial appearance in court Thursday where bond was set at $50,000, as well as $1,000 Signature bond for the misdemeanor charge. The possession charges will carry an enhanced penalty due to Riley being in possession of a weapon at the same time.
As this is an ongoing investigation, police say there are still charges pending.
Anyone with information about this case is asked to call the George County Sheriff's Office at (601) 947-4811, the Lucedale Police Department at (601) 947-3261, or Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers at (877) 787-5898.