Nearly 370 pit bulls, many of them emaciated and covered in fleas, were rescued and 12 people arrested following the bust of one of the largest dog fighting rings in US history.
Federal, state and local officials announced the arrests Monday.
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They stem from raids on homes in Georgia and Alabama late last week and the recovery of $500,000 believed to be tied to illegal gambling on the dog fighting, The Associated Press reported.
Arrests were made in Georgia, Texas, Alabama and Mississippi.
"I believe if Dante were alive today and were rewriting 'The Inferno,' that the lowest places in hell would be reserved for those who commit cruelty to our animals and to our children," US Attorney George Beck said during a news conference Monday.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals called it the second-largest dog fighting raid in US history.
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"In one yard, 114 dogs, the majority tethered to heavy chains, sat in 90 degree heat, scratching at fleas, with no fresh water or food visible anywhere on the property. Some appeared to have no access to water at all, and many exhibited wounds, scars and other conditions consistent with dogfighting," the ASPCA said in a statement.
The dogs will be kept as evidence until the cases are tried.
But animal rights groups said they hoped to re-train the dogs and place them in news homes at some point.