MANILA -- Police in the Philippines raided two dog-fighting locations and seized over 300 Pit Bulls in what may be the world’s largest syndicated dog-fighting bust. Many of the dogs had to be euthanized because of illness, untreated wounds and serious injuries. Rescuers were appalled that some of the Pit Bulls seized had been “saved” in a previous bust in Cavite in December 2011, but were “recycled,” meaning they were adopted or rescued by people who sold them back to the same dogfighters.
Philippine Police seized over 300 pit bulls in separate raids on two locations on March 30, 2012—an underground dog-fight arena in Calauuan and a dog farm in San Pablo City in Laguna (south of Manila), according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN. Information is still being unveiled on the operation and most of the dogs still remain at the site, with basic care being provided by animal-protection groups...
The Pit Bulls were housed in individual metal fuel drums and tied with heavy steel chains inside the lot which was a coffee plantation, surrounded by a fence made of corrugated tin. Police also recovered 30 dogs from an arena in the nearby town of Calauan where they were about to be fought.
Chief Inspector Renante Galang, from the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group National Office, says officers arrested eight South Korean nationals suspected of operating the facility and four Filipino security guards during the evening raid on a compound measured at 2 hectares (approximately 5 acres) in San Pablo.
DOG FIGHTS LIVE-STREAMED BY VIDEO BROADCASTS
The Laguna police and CIDG report they arrived just before a "big fight" at the two-hectare dog fight arena in Barangay Limao in Calauan town. Galang says officers confiscated high-definition cameras and computers used for syndicated online gambling where players place bets on dogs they see in live-streamed video broadcasts to a betting audience.
Some of the suspects taken into custody were the same South Korean men arrested in Indang, Cavite, a nearby province, on December 3, 2011.in a similar facility where 256 dogs were found. They were identified as Lee Gwi Woo, 21; Jeong Yeon Hwal, 31; Noh Min Chul, 44; Lee Kyung Won, 31; Kim Young Hwan, 29; Hyun Ho Han, 45; Hong Jeong Oh, 43; and Kim Do Kyung, 41.
Galang confirmed five of them were arrested in the previous raid on the dog fight club in December, but they were quickly released on bail. Under current Philippine law those found guilty of animal cruelty can be jailed for a total sentence of only between six months and two years. By posting bail of only $116 (USD) suspects can go free during the often-lengthy legal process.
SYNDICATED HIGH-STAKES ONLINE GAMBLING
As in the fight club busted in Cavite, pit bulls were pitted against each other in three- to five-minute fights in the Calauan arena that were streamed live on the Internet. Patrons, mostly foreigners, placed bets worth hundreds of thousands to a million Korean won through credit cards or Paypal. "There were high-class cameras installed around the ring," Galang said.
Police rescued 33 Pit Bulls from the arena in Calauan. They then proceeded to San Pablo City, a 30-minute drive from Calauan, to a farm in Barangay San Gregorio where the Koreans housed more than 300 additional Pit Bulls.
ABS-CBN News reported that the illegal dog fights were held in a makeshift arena inside a soundproofed home. Galang said the police arrived just before a "big fight".
The eight suspects face charges of illegal gambling and cruelty to animals. The San Pablo city prosecutor has not yet completed a preliminary investigation to determine if evidence is strong enough for a court case, officials stated.
PIT BULLS IN TERRIBLE CONDITION
The four Filipino caretakers were also taken in for questioning. Galang quoted them as saying the Koreans had been renting the two-hectare lot since February. "The dogs were in very bad shape. They were either sick or were wounded,” he stated.
Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) program director Anna Cabrera said many of the dogs were severely injured, with ripped ears and tongues, including 20 that needed to be euthanized immediately.
"This appears to be a large operation and these South Koreans need to be punished," she told reporters. "Too many animals have already suffered, and criminals are becoming bolder, taking only two months after arrest to get back into their illegal operations once they have posted bail."
PAWS also took in 240 wounded and malnourished Pit Bulls from the December raid. Cabrera said many of the dogs in the latest bust also were not properly fed and sheltered, and showed scars and wounds from recent fights.
PAWS’ veterinarian Wilford Almora also told the Associated Press that many of the pit bulls — purebred and mixed breeds — suffered ripped ears and tongues and other wounds in previous fights.
He said his group had enough drugs to euthanize 70 dogs and they selected the most sick, emaciated and dangerously aggressive animals to put down first. “Some of the dogs were too weak to stand,” he said.
Cabrera said it was not possible to care for all the pit bulls that were rescued and it would be irresponsible to give away for adoption the animals that have not properly healed. "The government simply does not have a facility big enough to hold these animals," she said, adding that Pit Bulls bred for fighting and could not be placed together in a single cage.
She said she was horrified to find that some of the dogs rescued were “saved” from another facility in Cavite province in December, Cabrera said the dogs were "recycled" — adopted by people who resold them to the suspects to continue fighting.
"That is a fate worse than death," she said. "We don't want that to happen for a second time, and in light of security issues, we have opted to put the pit bulls humanely to sleep if no one steps forward with a plan to rehabilitate and shelter them," she said. The decision was taken, she said, because there are no facilities to rehabilitate the animals and prevent them from again being used in underground arenas.
"The [underlying] problem, however, is that [cruelty to animals] is a bailable offense," Cabrera said. Offenders, according to the Philippine Animal Welfare Act, face only a maximum penalty of 5,000 pesos (USD $116) or six months to two years imprisonment.
Anna Cabrera called on the government to overhaul and strengthen its animal rights law which allows suspects to post bail and go free while their cases move through the country's notoriously slow court system.
PHILIPPINE GOVERNMENT PLACES RESPONSIBILITY ON LOCAL EXECS
On April 9, Malacañang Deputy Presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte reminded local government executives of their role in preventing dog- or horse-fight rackets operated by gambling syndicates. “Let us remind local executives, apart from the national government, you are the ones in charge of enforcing the law,” she said. Valte cited Section 6 of the Animal Welfare Act, which prohibits the torture or neglect of animals, “or to subject any dog or horse to dogfights or horse fights.”
ANIMAL-RESCUE GROUPS WILL “DO THE BEST WE CAN”
The Philippine Daily Inquirer announced on April 8 that at least two animal-protection agencies have offered to try to rehabilitate some of the remaining 223 pit bulls seized in the police raids.
Since then, Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA) and the Island Rescue Organization (IRO) have taken over the care of the Laguna pit bulls at the site. Island Rescue Organization, already caring for the 61 surviving pit bulls seized in the December raid, has taken over the care of the Laguna pit bulls. “We will try and do what we can in the best way we can,” Nancy Cu-unjieng of Compassion and Responsibility for Animals told the Philippine Inquirer.
If anything positive is to come from this horrible experience, the raid and arrests in San Pablo City and Laguna have angered many Philippine animal advocates. “Aside from not wanting to see dogs fight,” activist Maria Parsons says, “I think what enraged a lot more Filipinos was that this was done by people who had already been arrested, and are still operating with impunity here.
In the meantime, the animals are still confined in the steel drums they were found in, but donated tarpaulins and nets are being pitched to shield them from the sun. Some of the dogs had died from heatstroke.