The investigation began when the Marshall County Sheriff’s Office, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office and the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation decided to cooperate in bringing down what they suspected was a large and organized dogfighting organization.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office said that when the police arrived at the dogfight on Saturday night, at least 200 people from more than 15 states were in attendance with an admission price of $100 per person. Police say some of the attendees came from as far away as California to watch the brutal fight, a sign that police say indicates some of them are relatively high up in the dogfighting world.
The gathering took place in a rural property off Highway 72 near Steward Road. Authorities then raided a barn on the property as people attempted to flee the scene of the crime. Authorities say that at least 50 people were arrested and that local and federal officers are continuing the hunt for others who escaped. Police say that many of those who fled did so on foot, often leaving their vehicles behind. More than 70 cars and trucks were seized by officers that are now sitting in an impound lot. Police say many of the vehicles were expensive, recent models.
Authorities have said that they were also able to rescue 20 dogs from the fight. The dogs have all been taken to the Benton County Humane Society where they were given veterinary treatment and will be assessed for injuries. Officials with the Humane Society say they are working to identify dogfighting evidence and paraphernalia used in the enterprise.
Police say the hope is that with big raids like this, a message is sent that law enforcement will not tolerate such conduct and that people will think twice before engaging in the activity again.
The punishment in the state is quite severe for those that have anything to do with the crime of dogfighting. In fact, a national ranking of state dogfighting laws by the Humane Society put Mississippi’s laws at the sixth most severe in the country. Mississippi law says that it is a felony punishable by between one and three years in jail and between $1,000 and $5,000 in fines for those found to have engaged in dogfighting. The same penalties apply to those who own dogs used for fighting. Mississippi also has punishments for those who are merely spectators at dogfights, felony charges with up to a year behind bars and fines of between $500 and $5,000.