Special Report: A Fighting Chance

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HOLLYWOOD, Ala. (WHNT) - Dog fighting isn't something people talk about openly, but police say it’s definitely happening. We have an update on one case from Jackson County.

In early March, authorities raided a home on County Road 36 that they described as a "dog concentration camp." See the photos below.

Officers rescued 10 dogs – seven males and three females. A few were puppies. Police say many emerged with bite marks, broken bones and untreated, open sores.

Three men are accused of fighting the dogs. Richard L. Humphrey, James Lopaze Allen and Christopher Eugene Allen are charged with dogfighting, which is a felony. If convicted, the punishment is one to 10 years in prison. A grand jury will hear the case later this summer.

At a civil hearing in late March, a Jackson County judge ordered the suspects to pay $150 each month to the Scottsboro Animal Shelter, where the dogs are currently housed.

WHNT News 19 got an up-close look at the dogs. The dogs are in better condition, but the scars are visible. They are wounded, limp, confined to a cage and desperate for attention.  Everyone involved in the case agrees the animals face a difficult future.

Dr. Kasandra Garner treated the dogs right after police took them from the owners.

“These animals are victims," says Dr. Garner. "They’re very clearly victims here.”

Caring for the dogs is complicated because of their history.

"I’ve seen these dogs in action at the pound," says Dr. Garner. "One minute they are very sweet and loving to me, but if they see another animal, especially a smaller animal, they suddenly become quite vicious and it’s because they’ve been trained to be so.”

With the owners’ futures in limbo until the grand jury session in August, and the pit bulls being unable to safely interact with other dogs, the only option is the kennel.  It’s a holding pattern that’s hard for Hollywood Police Chief Jason Hepler to witness.

"It’s tough to see something like that because when you walk by these dogs, they just look at you," says Hepler. "They want you to pet ‘em, but they’ve got these marks from where they fought. They sustained some type of injury that was left untreated and it kind of breaks your heart because the dog can’t take care of itself.”

While Chief Hepler says he's confident there is enough evidence to secure an indictment and an eventual conviction in this case, if that doesn’t happen, the dogs could go back to the original owners.

Right now, the dogs are considered evidence in a criminal case and can’t be fostered or adopted. So, they're essentially stuck. If you'd like to help the dogs, there is a fund set up at the Scottsboro Animal Shelter or through Dr. Garner’s office. You can reach the shelter by calling (256) 259-6511. You can get in touch with Dr. Garner's office by calling (256) (256) 574-5278.

Even if these were regular pit bulls, with no sordid history like these dogs, Dr. Garner says it’s hard to find homes for them and euthanization rates are much higher. Breeds that resemble pit bulls get a bad rap as well.

There is often a lot of confusion and misidentification when it comes to this type of dog.  WHNT News 19 asked people to correctly identify a pit bull.  Click here to see the 10 dogs and the results of our poll.

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