A look inside the world of dogfighting in CT

New Haven

WARNING: Some images in this report may be disturbing to some viewers. Viewer discretion is advised.

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (WTNH) — After one of the biggest busts in the northeast for dogfighting, Connecticut State Police are still trying to track down more of these criminals.

Back on July 5, 2017, a pit bull was found on the brink of death and brought to the Dan Cosgrove Animal Shelter. They named him Freedom and rehabilitated him.

“He had open wounds on his leg,” Jennifer Newmaker, Freedom’s owner said. “He had surgery on his ears. So that’s kind of what he’s been left with.”

“He has become such a big part of my life and my heart. I’m going to cry,” Newmaker said as she got choked up. “I’m just…I’m thankful. I’m thankful that he’s here and I’m able to be his mom.”

Police said Freedom was used as bait for dogfighting. Authorities believe he was hog-tied and left completely defenseless.

“They are the dogs that the fighting dogs are trained on,” Newmaker said. “They’re conditioned to not fight back. In his case, his canines were all filed down so that he couldn’t fight back to defend himself.”

Over this past summer and fall, a month’s long investigation led to a big bust of what is believed to be one of the biggest dogfighting rings throughout New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut. More than 100 dogs were rescued, a dozen suspects were thrown behind bars, and hundreds of pieces of evidence were collected like steroids, treadmills, and what could be considered torturing equipment.

RELATED: CT State Police: 15 dogs seized in Orange, Meriden from multi-state suspected dogfighting rings

Some of it was found in a home in Orange, and one in Meriden.

“Steel chains that are used to hold dogs up by their jaws to make them stronger or knives that they use to break a dog’s bite when they’re clamped onto something, Attorney General William Tong said.

Some of the dogs were brought to Milford Animal Control where they are doing well. Many wonder why would people do this. Animal advocates say it’s two things: big egos and big money.

“To make a buck and to brag about it,” Suffolk County District Attorney Tim Sini said.

Here are some tips on how to identify and report dogfighting.

In this recent bust, authorities discovered one person bet $175,000 on a single match.

“Knowing the severity of it and how complex it is we have a dedicated detective that is solely working on this case,” Connecticut State Trooper First Class Christine Jeltema said.

Jeltema said other crimes go hand in hand with this blood sport and the perpetrators know how to keep their underground rings under the radar with high fences and cages in basements.

RELATED: State gains custody of pit bulls seized from suspected dogfighting ring in Meriden

Even still, police believe someone knows something that could help.

“People are afraid to come forward because they don’t know what the repercussions are going to be,” Jeltema said.

“How are more people not coming forward? If this is something that’s happening in your neighborhood, next door to you,” Newmaker said. “I don’t understand how people can just turn and walk away.”

No one has been arrested for what happened to Freedom, and Newmaker said even with his damaged ears and scars, you would never know his past. He barely even barks.

“He’s happy,” Newmaker said. “He’s happy to meet people. He loves the attention. He’s such a lover. He’s definitely a momma’s boy.”

Animal advocates say after these criminals are behind bars, they usually go right back to it. They believe stronger laws on the books are the only way to really make a dent against dogfighting.

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