(WMC-TV) - Authorities busted an active dogfight in Benton County Saturday evening, leading to the rescue of 20 dogs, according to the Humane Society.
The raid, involving the HSUS, the Marshall County Sheriff's Office, Benton County Sheriff's Office and Mississippi Bureau of Investigations, resulted in the arrest of 40 alleged dogfighters, the seizure of almost two dozen dogs, suspected dogfighting paraphernalia, and $1,000 in cash.
Law enforcement agents entered a barn off Highway 72 and Steward Road as the dogfight was in progress. A range was set up for the dogs to fight in and there was fresh blood inside. More than 200 people were in attendance with spectators gathered from 15 different states.
According to the Marshall County Sheriff's Officer, admission was $100. The investigation is still ongoing for numerous individuals who fled from the scene. Shots were fired, but not at officers. Many cars were left behind and are now in the impound lot.
The raid lasted until early Sunday morning. It was the outcome of a multi-agency investigation and involved tracking suspected dogfighters from around the country as they traveled to the match on a property in rural Benton County.
"We are pleased that our cooperative efforts in Mississippi resulted in the bust of a massive dogfight in progress and allowed us to rescue these dogs," said HSUS manager of animal fighting investigations Chris Schindler. "The Humane Society of the United States is proud to assist the dedicated officers in Marshall and Benton counties to crack down on a dogfighting ring that spanned the country."
He said people from across the country came to the dogfight, as far as California and as close as Mississippi, which meant there were likely some key dog fighting leaders.
"This is going to have a ripple effect throughout the world of dogfighting, it's going to essentially scare a lot of people in this activity," said Schindler.
The HSUS' animal fighting experts assisted law enforcement in identifying and documenting suspected dogfighting evidence and forensic crime scene evidence, as well as coordinating the dog rescue effort.
"Dogfighting is a despicable crime that will not be tolerated in Marshall County," said Marshall County Sheriff's Office major Kelly McMillen. "We are grateful for the assistance and expertise of The Humane Society of the United States and all the other departments involved to make this a successful case."
Other agencies that assisted with the investigation and raid include the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, Sacramento County Sheriff's Office, Mississippi Highway Patrol and the sheriff's offices of Hardeman and Fayette counties in Tennessee.
The HSUS removed the dogs to a temporary shelter and will provide the animals with veterinary treatment, care and enrichment. At least two of the dogs were found with extensive injuries consistent with dogfighting.
It is The HSUS' policy that all dogs seized from animal fighting operations be treated as individuals. Professionals will individually evaluate all of the dogs rescued from this operation for potential placement with HSUS Dogfighting Rescue Coalition placement partners.
The suspects who were arrested will be in court Monday in Benton County. This activity has lead to an investigation officials will likely be digging through for the next few weeks.
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