Large dog-fighting ring broken up

Twenty-six dogs have been recovered and more than a dozen people are awaiting charges in connection to what local animal protection officials described as “one of the biggest dog fighting ring busts” in the city’s history.

The arrests were made late Sunday into yesterday morning in neighborhoods including Kensington and Grays Ferry, the Pennsylvania SPCA said. It was the result of a months-long investigation by undercover humane officers and a tip informing authorities that a dog fight was being held on the 2600 block of Gerritt Street.

In addition to the dogs, officers recovered dog fighting paraphernalia, weapons, narcotics and large sums of money. Most of the unidentified suspects, who face third-degree felony animal cruelty, were allegedly in the middle of a dog fight when officers busted in.

“Our officers have been working diligently to [investigate] the alleged ring, bring those involved to justice, and rescue the animals and potentially [save] many more dogs from this,” Pennsylvania SPCA CEO Susan Cosby said.

The animals are being treated at the PSPCA headquarters in North Philadelphia and at least half a dozen puppies about 3 to 6 months old were already cleared for adoption.

In 2009, humane officials said the number of reported animal fighting incidents more than tripled from the previous year. The increase is in line with a national trend since Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick was busted in 2007 for bankrolling a major dog fighting operation.

One dog’s sad tale

His ears look like someone took a blunt pair of scissors to them. His snout has a fresh inch-long gash that stands out among the countless scars on his wide head. Spartacus, a beat-up bait dog, has the demeanor of a prisoner not yet familiar with freedom.

When SPCA officers busted up a dog fighting ring in Grays Ferry mid-battle Sunday night, the emaciated black pit bull mix was in the middle of the violence. Some officials at the city animal shelter said he would need many hours of training, but could may one day find a normal home.

“We’ll make sure he can handle all situations before he’s cleared for adoption,” SPCA spokeswoman Wendy Marano said. –Brian X. McCrone/Metro

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