Santa Paula police seized 16 dogs, most of which were Pit Bulls, from horrific conditions in the backyard of a house on North 14th Street on Tuesday and suspect they were being bred and trained for dog fighting, officials said.
Two of the dogs were severely injured, including a nursing mom. All were taken to the Santa Paula Animal Rescue Center for care and medical treatment. No arrests were made that day, police said.
A Santa Paula animal control officer responded about 9 a.m. on Tuesday to the address in the 500 block of North 14th Street, after receiving a report that four or five dogs were fighting in the backyard. The officer separated the dogs and called for backup from the police department, the Ventura County Star reports.
Officers, with help from Ventura County Animal Control and the Humane Society, removed 16 dogs from the property, police said.Four dogs were puppies, two were English bulldogs and one was a Boston terrier.
Authorities said they found evidence of dog breeding and fight training, including an agitator stick, and cropped ears, clipped tails, scars and healing and new wounds on the dogs.
No one was home at the time, but the property was posted for seizure of the dogs and the owner later came to the police station and denied any wrongdoing. The owner now has 10 days to request a hearing contesting the seizure of the dogs.
After that, investigators can pursue animal cruelty charges. In the meantime, the investigation is continuing.
“THERE WAS SO MUCH BLOOD, IT LOOKED LIKE SOMETHING HAD BEEN SLAUGHTERED…"
John Brockus, a spokesman for the rescue center, said there were several violations at the home, including an excess of animals and failure to license. It was also clear that some of the dogs’ ears were not clipped by a professional, he told.
“All of the dogs were seized for their welfare,” Brockus said.
“We walked to the backyard and the smell nearly knocked us over,” he said. “There was so much blood, it looked like something had been slaughtered back there.”
Brockus said the dogs had signs of previous injuries, and the noise and smell should have caused alarm before, even though nothing had been reported before Tuesday.
"THERE IS NO WAY THE NEIGHBORS DID NOT KNOW THIS WAS OCCURRING"
John Brokus said, "We need more people to step up and call us when they see or hear something.”
Volunteers washed off the dogs Tuesday afternoon as veterinarian Susan Rodgers disinfected wounds and gave the dogs pain medication, the Ventura County Star reported.
All of the animals were dehydrated, and many had bite and puncture wounds. The veterinary staff extracted a badly chipped tooth from one dog, Rodgers said.
“All of them were covered in dry fecal matter and blood,” she said.
Volunteers at the Center said almost all the dogs were friendly. All of them were lying calmly in their cages. Some had red eyes, and some were still shaking--undoubtedly from the anxiety and the fear-filled conditions under which they had been living.
“It’s chillout time now,” Brockus said. “They can be great dogs depending on how they are handled from here on out. This will be a turning point.”
He said breeders often cage dogs close to each other to foster aggression that is useful in fighting, but none of the 16 were aggressive toward Animal Control Officers and shelter volunteers.
Regina Wilcox, the veterinary liaison for the Rescue Center, said the two severely injured dogs were taken to a veterinary hospital in Ventura for surgery. All of the dogs are expected to survive, and shelter officials hope they will eventually be adopted out.
The no-kill shelter contracts with Santa Paula to take in all dogs seized by City Animal Control Officers.
Wilcox said the shelter tries to educate people on the dangers and cruelty of dog fighting.
“We live in a community where dog fighting, cock fighting are pretty normal,” she said. “It’s a violent way of thinking and a violent way of life and it’s something we try to educate against.
REWARD FOR INFORMATION THAT LEADS TO CONVICTION FOR ANIMAL FIGHTING
Up to a $5,000 reward is offered by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in illegal animal fighting. Call 877-TIP-HSUS (877-847-4787). Callers’ identities are protected.
Read more: VC Star