• The accused men bred and sold puppies of winning dogs
  • The suspects carried out unlicensed medical treatments on the injured canines and killed them if they underperformed
  • Officials found some dogs living without food and water and in deplorable conditions in garages and sheds

Over 80 dogs were rescued and 10 people were arrested Monday in possibly one of the largest interstate dogfighting ring takedowns in New York.

The dogfighting ring operated across Long Island, New York City, Connecticut and Massachusetts. According to the investigation by several local, county and state law enforcement agencies, the operation included breeding pups, training and illegal fighting of pit bulls.

Officials revealed that pups as young as six months old were prepared for practice fights or "rolls" to determine their fighting potential. The investigation revealed that the animals were forced to train for fights and were subjected to cruel living conditions throughout their life.

According to a statement by the Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini, several dogs had various medical conditions consistent with dogfighting, including scarring and broken teeth. They are also exhibiting fearful behavior.

"We will not tolerate these types of crimes...Many of us have dogs as pets in our homes and we love them as another family member. This case is about how a criminal network bred dogs, tortured them, and put them in serious harm’s way just to make a buck," said Sini.

According to officials, when the dogs were deemed ready to fight, a "broker" would organize a match based on the dog’s weight and sex, among other things. Dogfighters looking to enter their dog into a fight would have to pay a buy-in fee and all the proceeds would go to the winning dogfighter. The dog handlers allegedly placed bets on fights that lasted for several hours.

Officials also found evidence of the suspects engaging in unlicensed medical treatment of injured dogs, often killing severely injured or underperforming canines. The accused men also bred and sold puppies descended from winning dogs.

Officials were able to recover various dogfighting paraphernalia, including veterinary surgical supplies, including a skin stapler and rape stands, which are used to immobilize female dogs during breeding.

They also found plugging cords, which are used in the electrocution of dogs. Steroids and other supplements used in enhancing performance were also found. Police also found “break sticks,” used to break dogs apart by their mouths during fights and treadmills and spring poles among other equipment used to strengthen bite, agility and tenacity.

81 dogs were rescued from Suffolk County, Nassau County and Brooklyn and an additional eight dogs were rescued in Connecticut. The dogs were found living in basements, garages and sheds. Some did not even have food or water, reported New York Post. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) helped law enforcement in the recovery of the dogs.

"This brutal case involving dozens of victimized animals demonstrates that dogfighting persists in every corner of America, requiring that we remain diligent in our effort to eradicate animal fighting across the country," said Elizabeth Brandler, Senior Counsel for ASPCA Legal Advocacy & Investigations, in a statement.

"Dogfighting is a brutal and illegal activity, which results in the abuse and torture of innocent animals for entertainment and profit," shared New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen.

"We will continue to work with our law enforcement and community partners to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who illegally abuse animals for any reason."

"I have to rescue them because if I don't, they will die for sure," says Zhi of the nearly 8,000 dogs he has taken in
Dogs in Crates | Representational Image AFP / Hector RETAMAL