More than 150 dogs that were seized this month as part of a dog-fighting investigation could eventually become available for adoption.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has been caring for the dogs at an undisclosed location since authorities arrested 10 men on Dec. 6 and 7 on charges of dog fighting and selling drugs in the Onslow County area.
It’s unclear what the future holds for the dogs, because the ASPCA does not yet have legal custody of them, said spokeswoman Emily Schneider.
Typically when the ASPCA gets involved with animals taken from dog-fighting operations, it treats them medically, does a series of behavior assessments to determine if they are suitable for adoption and then partners with rescue groups and animal welfare organizations to find them new homes, Schneider said.
“Our goal is ultimately to place these animals as quickly as possible,” she said.
Schneider said she did not know the health status of the dogs seized in the Onslow raids.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of North Carolina announced earlier this month that a grand jury had indicted the men. They are accused of placing bets on dog fights, sometimes as much as $100,000 on a single fight.
Seven of the men were charged with conspiracy to violate the Animal Welfare Act. Three were charged with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute cocaine, crack and heroin, and one was charged with a misdemeanor for allegedly attending two dog fights.
The federal Animal Welfare Act makes it a felony punishable by up to five years in prison to fight dogs or to possess, train, sell, buy, deliver, receive or transport dogs intended for use in dog fighting.
The 156 dogs were seized from four locations, said Don Connelly, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office. Connelly said it’s common for law enforcement agencies to ask the ASPCA for help.
“We’re not in a position to care for animals,” he said.
Connelly said the dogs could be used as evidence in the case. He did not know the breed of the dogs.
The case continues to be investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Jacksonville Police Department and Onslow County Sheriff’s Office. Assistant U.S. Attorney Laura Howard will prosecute the case.
Schneider said it’s unclear how long it could take to partner with other animal organizations to place the dogs for adoption. Sometimes the process moves quickly, she said, but sometimes it can take several months.
Part of the goal is to help the dogs became comfortable around people.
“Generally, these dogs live in isolation,” Schneider said. “They don’t get a lot of interaction with humans. A lot of times these dogs are fearful.”
Staff writer Abbie Bennett contributed.