Eight pit bulls were seized Tuesday morning and criminal charges are pending against at least two men after a suspected dogfighting operation was raided in Spokane Valley.
“This is kind of new ground here,” said Nancy Hill, director of Spokane County Regional Animal Protection Service. “It’s a sad day for Spokane County.”
The dogs were found caged or restrained with heavy chains at 8006 E. Utah Ave. during the search conducted by SCRAPS, the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office and an agent with the state Gambling Commission.
“The dogs are pretty lean. It looks like they’ve been conditioned. They have wounds and scars. One has sutures on its chest,” Hill said.
The investigation is continuing. Neighbors said dogs have been abused at the home for some time.
A neighbor, who wished to remain anonymous because of fear of retribution, described witnessing a man at the home beat a dog in the head with a metal pipe because it was barking. When the dog went into convulsions, the man dragged it away, and the neighbor said it never reappeared in the yard.
The same neighbor said that men at the home would take one or two dogs out at various times. Sometimes the dogs came back; sometimes they didn’t.
The dogs were allegedly fed very little and left on heavy chains to build strength in their chests.
SCRAPS officers found a treadmill that could have been used to condition the dogs and veterinary supplies consistent with dogfighting, including antibiotics, drugs to stop bleeding and performance enhancers.
Hill said she has never before encountered a suspected dogfighting base.
While the agency investigated the operation, it relied on national groups for information about how dogfighting rings work.
Sheriff’s deputies found a loaded semiautomatic Glock pistol just inside the doorway of the home.
They arrested Peter S. Nelson, 24, on charges of operating an illegal kennel.
Deputies were also looking for Alfredo L. Renteria, 25. He was not home at the time of the raid.
Not much was immediately known about Nelson, but court records show he was convicted in Spokane County District Court in 2004 for DUI.
Possible charges for the two men include confining animals in an unsafe manner, operating an illegal kennel, animal cruelty, dogs used as bait and animal fighting.
Engaging in dogfighting is a class C felony in Washington.
According to the Spokane County Sheriff’s Office, the Washington State Gambling Commission received a tip about betting on dogfights arranged by the Spokane Valley operation as early as 2004.
They could not substantiate the operation at that time, said Gambling Commission spokeswoman Susan Arland.
The agency doesn’t investigate many dogfighting networks, said Arland, who described them as highly secretive, tight-knit groups of people.
“They’re hard to infiltrate. They’re so underground,” she said.
SCRAPS officials began investigating the home on Utah Avenue after neighbors called in with concerns, saying they had heard the dogs crying in pain, according to a search warrant filed Tuesday. An animal protection officer viewed the animals from the neighbors’ backyards and saw their living conditions.
One neighbor told SCRAPS that some of the dogs looked like they had been “put through a shredder.”
The pit bulls seized Tuesday did not try to attack animal control officers as they were moved into trucks to take them to the county animal shelter, pending the investigation.
Hill said fighting dogs aren’t necessarily aggressive to people but can still pose problems to potential owners.
What will happen to the dogs is unclear.
“These dogs may not be adoptable,” said Hill.