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Press Release

Joint Operation Targets Massive Dogfighting Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, District of South Carolina
305 Dogs Rescued, More Than 20 Arrested, in Largest Operation of its Kind in South Carolina

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA — Over the weekend, a joint team of more than 60 federal and state law enforcement officers executed nearly two dozen warrants for various properties in the Midlands area in what is believed to be the biggest takedown of a dogfighting operation in South Carolina history.

On Saturday, officers with the operation interrupted a scheduled dogfighting match in Richland County. The following morning, the officers executed 23 search warrants at various residences and properties in Richland, York, Orangeburg, Clarendon, Lee, and Sumter Counties that were known dogfighting kennels or associated with dogfighting. In total 305 dogs were rescued this weekend, with 275 believed to be associated with dogfighting. The Humane Society of the United States and Bark Nation supported the operation by assisting with animal handling and are currently assisting with the care of the animals. During the weekend operation, officers seized approximately 30 firearms, $40,000 in cash, and various evidence related to dogfighting. More than 20 individuals were arrested for state charges relating to animal cruelty and dogfighting.

“To force dogs to fight, often to the death, for the enjoyment of others is not only a federal crime, it is also cruel, sadistic, and can create a haven for other illicit activities involving drugs and firearms,” said U.S. Attorney Adair F. Boroughs. “This joint operation, which has been months in the making, makes clear that dogfighting operations will find no refuge here in South Carolina. I especially want to thank our state and federal partners, the Governor’s Office, and our community partners for their leadership and work on this issue.”

“The depravity involved in carrying out a dogfighting conspiracy is unimaginable to most people, and those involved in such a crime must be rooted out and punished,” said Governor Henry McMaster, who started a dogfighting task force as Attorney General. “On behalf of all South Carolinians, I would like to thank the dedicated state and federal law enforcement officers who uncovered and disrupted this unspeakable cruelty. Our state is safer because of their hard work on this investigation.”

“SLED continues to see the devastating impacts of dog fighting across South Carolina. Law enforcement often finds that guns, illicit drugs, human trafficking, and child abuse are involved with instances of animal abuse,” said South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Mark Keel. “This operation was only a success because multiple agencies made up of dedicated professionals worked tirelessly for justice. Dog fighting is both inhumane and illegal - it will not be tolerated.”

“Even after the many years we have worked to protect dogs from the calculated brutality that dogfighting perpetuates, our responders are still struck by the resilience of these dogs who have suffered unthinkable cruelty,” said Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “We are grateful to the federal and state officials for intervening on behalf of these dogs and for the opportunity to work together to get them the care they deserve.”  

The Animal Welfare Act makes it a felony punishable by up to five years in federal prison to fight dogs or to possess, train, sell, buy, deliver, receive, or transport dogs intended for use in dogfighting.

This is the first step in a continuing investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General and SLED. The U.S. Marshals Service, South Carolina Department of Natural Resources, Richland County Sheriff’s Department, York County Sheriff’s Office, Rock Hill Police Department, Indiana Gaming Commission, and Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office Criminal Investigations Division are also assisting in the investigation. U.S. Attorneys Jane B. Taylor, Elle E. Klein, Elizabeth Major, and Carrie Fisher Sherard are prosecuting the case.

If you have any information on dogfighting operations here in South Carolina, please call 1-800-424-9121.

Images and media from the operation are available here.



Derek A. Shoemake (843) 813-0982

Updated September 26, 2022

Violent Crime