20 dogs rescued; 4 arrested for running dog fights

July 11, 2011 7:53:26 AM PDT
Police in northwest Indiana raided two properties allegedly connected with a dog fighting operation. Officers arrested four men after acting on a tip.

Police say all the dogs had injuries consistent with dog fighting. Not only were dogs recovered, but detectives took dog fighting equipment into evidence as well.

The tip came from a person who had attended dog fights at one of the Gary properties.

Old dog crates, cages and chains lined the garage and basement of a Gary home. Thursday morning, the Lake County Sheriff's police and the Humane Society removed 19 dogs, including puppies, from the house.

On the same block, a 20th dog was found near a garage where detectives recovered dog fighting equipment.

The Humane Society says all the animals had injuries consistent with dog fighting.

"One dog was missing part of its lip, exposing into its mouth and missing a lot of teeth, and a lot of heavy scarring," said the Humane Society's Chris Schindler. "One was missing an ear, its entire ear, so some rough conditions for these guys."

Brandon J. Peterson, Sammie J. Jones, Clifton Harris and Willie Hargrove were all arrested on felony charges related to dog fighting and neglect.

Police say they were tipped off a couple days ago by one person.

"That person said they have been to matches. Once they started working with pit bulls at Animal Control they felt a certain amount of guilt and decided to turn them in," said Lake County Sheriff's Police Detective Michelle Weaver.

Police say, while the breeding took place at Harris' house, the alleged fighting occurred in Hargrove's garage.

A neighbor across the street says he was aware of the dogs but unaware of any illegal activity.

"It looked like they had not been taken care of real well, but I didn't know they were fighting them," said neighbor Tony Stewart.

While the humane society says dog fighting has dropped in the United States, it remains big business, especially in Lake County, Indiana.

"They make money, not only off the fights, with gambling and spectators, and doing side bets, but also off breeding them later," said Schindler.

"This is, unfortunately, the norm and not the exception," Weaver said.

The Humane Society says the 20 dogs removed from the Gary properties were taken to an undisclosed location. By law, they are considered evidence. Depending on the condition of the dogs, the Humane Society says they can be nursed back to health and put up for adoption.

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