The fight against dog fighting in Southwest Florida

Posted at 10:03 AM, Jul 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-12 06:25:21-04

SOUTHWEST FLORIDA -- Dog fighting is a horrific act that some consider a sport, and it's happening right here in southwest Florida.

Sometimes they're trained to be fighters.  

Other times, they're the bait.  "You're lucky if you find them alive. They don't throw them out to live," says Tammy Henry at Clewiston Animal Control.

One dog named "Indie" was recently found in Immokalee.  "His nose had been ripped're literally looking into his nasal cavity"

"Jimmy" was found in Hendry County.  "We had to amputate his leg. It was down to the bone."

Some dogs like "Sunset" are just left for dead.  "Her ear was almost completely ripped off. All her ribs sticking out. Her foot was almost ripped apart."

But most dogs, don't make it out alive.

Some say dog fighting is a sport.  "It's like who's the biggest, who's the baddest, who has the baddest dog," says Henry.

Dog fighters breed dogs, or steal them from people's yards to train. It's an underground industry, usually happening in the middle of the night while you're sleeping.

And while fewer cases are being reported, Jen Galloway says the problem is far from solved; dog fighters have just gotten smarter.  "Where are they? I think they're still out there, they're just being more careful."

Dog rescue experts say most of their suspected bait dogs come from Hendry County, because of its rural areas. There's lots of wide open fields and it's much less populated.

One woman who's saved several of these dogs is Tammy Henry at Clewiston Animal Control. They picked up 13 suspected bait dogs last year. "We have found them floating in the canals, chewed up. They'll wrap them in sheets and put them on the side of the road."

She says she's gone undercover to dog fighting properties where they'll have 30-40 dogs chained in the yard.

"Those's not human. They're monsters."  Anke Sturm knows first hand. She's taken in "Sunset", a former bait dog, into her home.  A dog that wouldn't make eye contact is now playful with people and other dogs.

But the wounds of her past still show.  "A part of her lip is missing over here.  You can see still the scars down here, like this one. This is the ear that was almost ripped off completely."

But like other former bait dogs, where "Sunset" came from will never be forgotten.  "She is still haunted by her past, I think. And the scars she has on her soul, I think many of them will never go away."