HUNTERSVILLE, NC (WBTV) - Police say 23 dogs were rescued from a property in Huntersville Tuesday. Investigators believe the dogs were part of a dog fighting operation.
Huntersville Police Chief Cleveland Spruill said his officers have questioned people who live on the Statesville Road property, but they are still determining who is responsible for harming the animals.
A woman who described herself as the dog owner's aunt told WBTV the dogs were being raised to be sold. She says they were not involved in dog fighting. She said one dog had bite mark from a snake and was taken to the vet.
A treadmill surrounded by plywood is just one piece of evidence gathered in the case. The ASPCA shared a video they shot. ASPCA Director of Investigations, Kathryn Destreza, said that 16 adult dogs and seven puppies were tethered to heavy chains and removed from filthy conditions.
"That's how they live their life. If they're not fighting or being conditioned to fight they live their life on the end of a chain," Destreza said.
Huntersville police say they received tips and then, with the help of CMPD's animal control, investigators came on the property prior to searching it with a warrant Tuesday morning.
"While they were there, they observed dogs that exhibited injuries, bites that are consistent with them being fought as well as tools and equipment that are commonly associated with dog fighting," Spruill said.
It's such a busy road and the property is set so far back that people across the street said they had no idea.
"You never expect people are fighting dogs," said Ryan Williams. "That's the last thing you'd expect from someone."
Huntersville police say that with the help of CMPD Animal Control and the ASPCA, they will build a case to hold people accountable.
"We're not going to put up with that in Huntersville," Spruill said.
What happens to the dogs will be decided by a judge. They could be seized, returned or adopted out.
"Some of the puppies are very young. I'm sure many of the dogs would be suitable to be adopted out," Spruill said.
"The ASPCA's goal is always to rehab as many animals we can from any criminal situation," Destreza said.
The dogs are very valuable. The ASPCA says purses for dog fighting can get as high as $80,000, and puppies can be sold for $500 or more. That is why they are not saying where they are taking the dogs. All the dogs in this case are pit bulls. Destreza says breed is not an indication of dog fighting. She said people can be on the lookout for clues in their community.
"Several animals kept in a backyard or on a chain space, and you'll see those animals leave and other animals take their space, their places," Destreza said.
Police are asking for tips in the case to determine who is involved. Anyone with information concerning this incident should contact Lt. Andrew Dempski at 704-464-5400.