CHARLOTTE — Charlotte-Mecklenburg police seized 27 pit bulls, tethers, a fighting arena and other items in what they say may be the largest dogfighting operation the department has ever investigated.
Evidence that officers found Friday in the backyard off Carelock Circle in east Mecklenburg County suggest the property was used for both training and fighting of the dogs, police said. The suspected operation also drew concern because of the home’s proximity to an elementary school and its location in a neighborhood.
“It’s something that we never have come across before, especially with the number of animals that were found and also being able to find the building that they were actually fighting dogs in,” said Capt. Chris Dozer of Animal Care and Control.
The dogs that were seized are mostly adults. And while some of the dogs had scarring on their faces, the animals were fairly healthy, Dozier said. The agency hopes to put the animals up for adoption, or send them for rehabilitation.
Meanwhile, two men face charges in the suspected fighting operation. Melvin Smith, 46, and Lefonze Williams, 42, both of Charlotte, were each charged with felony training of animals with the purpose of dogfighting and baiting. Both were jailed early Saturday with bail set at $25,000.
It’s the second set of arrests linked to dogfighting made by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in the past two weeks.
On Jan. 24, police took 14 pit bulls after an investigation into suspected drug activity at a home off Grier Avenue also turned up evidence of suspected dogfighting. Two men were arrested, though only one was charged with animal-related offenses.
Dogfighting can take on many forms, from impromptu street-level competitions between two people who want to see whose dog is the strongest to more sophisticated rings where people buy equipment, supplements and other items to train dogs for fights that are promoted for prizes.