Eight Florida residents were indicted and about 100 dogs seized after federal authorities broke up a massive dog-fighting ring in Gadsden County.
As part of the probe, police searched one of the sites where the group was conducting dog-fighting events and found the remains of a recently deceased canine, the U.S. Department of Justice said in a news release Tuesday, when a grand jury indictment was unsealed.
Authorities discovered the illegal dog fights while investigating a drug-trafficking conspiracy. Four of the suspects in the latest indictment were charged in early May with distributing methamphetamine, cocaine and ecstasy throughout the Florida Panhandle.
Following those arrests, police searched several properties believed to be used for training and housing illegal dog fights.
The grand jury indictment charges the eight suspects with a combined 83 counts of federal dog fighting offenses. Each faces up to five years in prison and $250,000 in fines.
The defendants were identified as Dennis Howard, 45, of Chattahoochee; Leonard Safford, 37, of Gretna; and Quincy residents Jermaine Hadley, 31; Devar Donaldson, 27; Sariem McMillian, 23; Randell Colston, 47; Bob Streets, 35, and Zanntayfey Bennett, 35.
U.S. Attorney Lawrence Keefe, of the Northern District of Florida, vowed to pursue animal abuse cases “vigorously.”
“The United States Attorney’s Office takes allegations of dogfighting very seriously,” he said in a statement. “Our society can be judged, in part, by how we treat our animals.”