GARY | A search warrant on a suspected dogfighting location on the city's west side resulted in the arrest of four Gary men and the seizure of 20 dogs Thursday morning.
An anonymous tip led Lake County sheriff's police to the site in the 900 block of Willard Street.
Arrested were Brandon J. Peterson, 26, Sammie E. Jones, 28, Clifton Harris, 49, and Willie L. Hargrove, 52, all of Gary. They will be charged with a Class D felony of promoting animal fighting, which carries a penalty of up to three years in prison and a $10,000 fine, according to Lake County Sheriff's Department Cmdr. Rob Arnold.
Lake County sheriff's Detective Michelle Weaver said an impromptu fighting area was made of old doors in a garage at 951 Willard St. The dogs were kenneled at 968 Willard St.
Police processing the fighting area took swabs of splattered blood left behind by the injured dogs and removed "breaking sticks," devices used to break open the closed jaws of dogs.
"This is all pretty common to dogfighting scenes," Weaver said.
Police also removed evidence from the house where the dogs had been kenneled including a treadmill used to condition the animals for fights, police said.
Representatives with the Humane Society of the United States were on hand to process the dogs. Humane Society spokeswoman Katie Jarl said they are assessing the condition and injuries of the dogs, which are American pit bull terriers.
Jarl said processing dogs also will include an evaluation of their behavior.
"From here on out it will be a much better life for them. Today is the end of fear and suffering for them at the hands of their dog handlers," Jarl said.
Chris Schindler, manager of fighting investigations with the Humane Society, said one of the worst injured dogs had a large hole in its lip. Many of the other dogs had wounds and scars indicative of dogfighting.
"Dogfighting is a barbaric and inhumane practice, and we commend the Lake County Sheriff's Department for their action today," Schindler said.
Sheriff John Buncich said his department was happy to work with the Humane Society in rescuing the "poor animals."
"We hope this raid helps to put a stop to dogfighting, and we are thankful a member of our community called our tip line to report this illegal activity," Buncich said.
The Humane Society's animal rescue team is transporting the dogs to an undisclosed location for caretaking, according to a news release from the organization.
The location is undisclosed because the dog handlers could attempt to get them back, Jarl said.
"We want to keep them in a safe location," she said.
The value of a fighting dog can range from $6,000 to $10,000.
Other agencies that assisted include Casa Del Toro Pit Bull Rescue, the Monroe County Humane Association, Honey Creek Animal Hospital, Indiana Gaming Commission Gaming Control Division and Heartland Animal Rescue.