TACOMA, Wash. - Dozens of pit bulls found locked in crates inside a Tacoma garage with no ventilation or lighting and lying in their own feces have been removed from a suspected dog-fighting ring.
The 40-year-old owner has been booked into the Pierce County Jail on charges of animal cruelty in the first degree and animal fighting.
According to the Pierce County Sheriff's Office, Pierce County Animal Control received a tip that multiple pit bulls living at a home in the 9000 block of Portland Avenue in Tacoma appeared to be starving and were possibly being used for breeding.
An animal control officer contacted the owner of the home and asked to see some of the dogs.
The owner showed the officer six dogs. All of them were malnourished, had wounds and scars and were afraid of the owner. Three of the dogs appeared to have given birth to puppies within the last six months.
Officers got a warrant to search the home Dec. 18. They found dozens of dogs locked in crates inside a garage with no ventilation or lighting. The dogs were lying in their own urine and feces.
The sheriff's office says officers also found paraphernalia associated with dog fighting and breeding, including medications, syringes, first-aid supplies and training tools.
Animal Control removed 49 dogs from the property, including puppies. Most of the dogs were rated as being in poor or very poor body condition. Authorities say many of the dogs had open wounds and scars.
Eleven of the dogs needed medical attention and were taken to a local vet. The others were taken to the Tacoma Humane Society.
“Dog fighting is a brutal blood sport that is almost always operated solely for the purpose of conducting illegal gambling,” said Washington State Gambling Commission Director Dave Trujillo. “Thanks to a tip from an alert citizen, we’re able to shut down this criminal operation and rescue dozens of dogs.”
Heather Songer with WSGC also called the discovery disturbing and she says the agency is investigating other potential suspects in the dog-fighting ring.
Sarah Ayers, who lives in the neighborhood near Portland Avenue, says she never noticed anything suspicious.
"As a dog lover myself, I can't believe a human being would do that," Ayers said.
Other neighbors who live closer say they saw dogs outside but never knew there were 49 dogs in bad condition.
Q13 News is not naming the owner because he has not been charged as of Thursday.