On Saturday night, about 11 p.m., more than 100 law enforcement officers from the Akron Police Department, the U.S. Marshal’s Office and FBI converged on a property in the 1100 block of Cordova Avenue, where they had received tips that organized dog fights were held, Lt. Rick Edwards, public information officer for Akron police told reporters.
Summit County SWAT also responded with a mine-resistant ambush-protected (MRAP) vehicle, Ohio.com reports.
Two Humane Officers from Pawsibilities, the Humane Society of Greater Akron, were alerted to the intended raid and were involved in removing eight pit bulls, according to WKYC.
Acting on a tip, Akron Police Department has been investigating alleged illegal activity on the property for about a year, stated Chief of Police James Nice. They received another tip a month ago and began conducting surveillance at the site and waiting for another event, where they executed a search warrant, according to Lt. Edwards.
The home is surrounded by fencing, including an electric fence on one side, police described. When they burst through the gates and raided a two-car garage in the backyard, they found two pit bulls fighting, “The dogs were in a 16-by-16-square-foot dog pen inside a two-car garage,” said Lt. Edwards.
People scattered when officers burst into the garage. The fence, however, kept most of the people there inside the yard.
"They were all blocked in," Chief Nice told Cleveland.com. "It was a zoo. People were running everywhere and throwing money and drugs to the ground."
The property was set up for dog fighting, Lt. Edwards confirmed, describing walls that had blood splatters and bloody [electric] prodders to get the dogs to fight, “This tells you this wasn’t something that only happened once.”
In a separate metal shed, they found equipment for weighing the dogs and cleaning them after the fights. They also had an area set up for betting inside the shed.
All eight of the dogs are now being housed at the humane society's animal shelter in Twinsburg Township. The two found fighting and injured when officers arrived were initially taken to a local veterinary hospital for wound treatment prior to coming to the shelter.
All of the dogs are pit bulls and they will be under humane care during the criminal proceedings that are expected to take several months.
Authorities arrested 47 people from five states, charged each with single counts of fourth-degree felony dog fighting and booked them into the Summit County Jail, Lt. Edwards said. Additional charges are possible.
Several of the alleged offenders have multiple outstanding warrants for other charges.
Investigators also found 15 marijuana plants, $52,000 total in cash, 11 vehicles-- belonging to people from “Pittsburgh to North Carolina to Indiana”-- and two guns.
Akron PD Lt. Edwards said that officers dismantled the small marijuana-growing operation at the home, and determined it was owned by Alvin Banks, 56, who was among the 47 charged with dog fighting.
Arrestees were arraigned in Akron Municipal Court and bonds have been set between $10,000 and $100,000, according to reports.
Veteran Humane Society Officers Tim Harland and Shannon O’Herron, who were called to assist the animals, told Ohio.com, “It’s the first time they have witnessed alleged illegal activity of such magnitude.”
The humane officers removed eight pit bulls from the site. Two were bleeding from fresh wounds and one showed scars from previous fights. Five others were removed from vehicles at the scene, Harland said.
Another dog was removed from one of the 6-foot-high chain-link cages in the backyard of the property.
“Under Ohio law, it is illegal to promote or to engage in dog fighting, to charge admission to dog fights, or to posses, train or sell dogs for fighting,” said Karen Hackenberry, executive director of the Humane Society of Greater Akron, while also noting that it is a fourth-degree felony just to watch a dog fight.
Despite the lacerations the dogs that were fighting suffered, all eight are in good shape physically and are very friendly, O’Herron said, “A couple of them are shy and frightened, but…very good-natured.”
The dogs will stay at the shelter until they can be considered abandoned, become the property of the HSGA and can be put up for adoption, Hackenberry told Ohio.com.
“Dog fighting is a brutal crime that exploits helpless animals for profit, but it feeds on a larger criminal culture beyond just dog fighting and illegal gambling,” she added.
"It's up there with child molesting," Chief Nice told reporters. "I don't think you'll find anyone on the side of the dog fighters."