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Over 120 dogs seized from New Jersey compound used in alleged dogfighting ring

By Zoe Sottile, CNN

(CNN) — New Jersey authorities have rescued over 120 dogs that were part of a suspected dogfighting ring run at a compound in Cumberland County.

Police executed search and seizure warrants on multiple properties in the early morning Wednesday, according to a news release from the Humane Society of the United States.

“Dogs and puppies were found living in barren pens and cages throughout multiple buildings, while others were found shivering in the cold rain in outdoor pens or on heavy chains with little protection from the elements,” said the nonprofit.

Some of the dogs had untreated wounds and visible scarring, according to the Humane Society. Others were emaciated, including pregnant and nursing mothers.

But despite their health challenges and their alleged use in dogfights, many of the canines were friendly and affectionate with their rescuers.

“What’s striking is the level of suffering involved in dogfighting contrasted with how sweet and eager for affection these dogs are,” said Janette Reever, animal crimes investigations program manager for the Humane Society of the United States, in the release. ”Though they were shivering in the cold rain, these dogs still left their meager shelters to greet us. We are grateful to New Jersey authorities for their hard work and dedication to put a stop to this cycle of suffering.”

The rescue operation followed an “intensive” investigation by the Division of Criminal Justice, the New Jersey State Police, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to a news release from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

Veterinarians were also onsite to help evaluate each dog and provide medical care.

Eight people have been arrested and charged in connection with the search, says the Attorney General’s Office.

“Profiting from dogfighting is callous, brutal, and cruel,” Attorney General Matthew J. Platkin said in the news release. “These animals are born into lives of abuse, suffering, and violence, culminating with hours-long fights and frequently these dogs’ slow and painful deaths. The alleged illegal activities that were uncovered by this investigation will not go unpunished.”

The dogs on the property were likely bred and trained specifically for use in fighting, according to the Humane Society. Dogs can suffer severe bruising, deep puncture wounds, and broken bones. Deaths from “dehydration, infection, blood loss, exhaustion or shock,” are also common, says the nonprofit.

The dogs have been moved to a “safe, confidential location” and are receiving “much-needed care and treatment,” according to the Humane Society.

Dogfighting has occurred for millennia. It gained attention after the highly-publicized arrest of NFL quarterback Michael Vick in 2007. President George W. Bush signed a bill in May 2007 that made it a federal felony.

In 2022, federal officials seized roughly 400 dogs from suspected dogfighting rings, more than in any year since at least 2007, as CNN previously reported. The blood sport can be highly lucrative for owners and for spectators who may wager thousands on a match.

CNN’s Mariasole Campinoti contributed to this report.

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