JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One man was arrested and 17 dogs were seized in a suspected dog fighting operation, according to the Humane Society of the United States.
HSUS' Animal Rescue Team said it assisted the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in conducting the investigation.
Investigators said the dogs rescued have scarring and injuries consistent with dog fighting, including some with mutilated faces. Suspected dog fighting paraphernalia was also found on the property, investigators said.
Willie Coleman, 69, of Coleman's Kennels, was arrested and charged with 17 counts of animal fighting and one count of possessing equipment used for animal fighting, third-degree felonies in Florida. These charges carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
IMAGES: Property raided, dogs seized
"The HSUS is committed to eradicating the sadistic sport of dog fighting, which maims or kills thousands of dogs every year," said Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for HSUS.
"The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was happy to work with the Humane Society of the United States and assist them in bringing the investigation to a successful conclusion," said John Hartley, director of investigations and homeland security for JSO.
HSUS said it brought a mobile crime lab and assisted with the examination dogs on the scene. Experts from HSUS were on hand to help identify and document evidence and coordinate the rescue effort. Hello Bully assisted HSUS in handling and documenting the dogs, and the Animal Care and Protective Services of Jacksonville assisted in the raid, helped with the transportation of dogs and supplied the veterinarian on the scene.
Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states.
HSUS offers rewards of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in illegal animal fighting. It asks anyone with information about animal fighting criminals to call 877-TIP-HSUS (877-847-4787). Tipsters' identities are protected.
Copyright 2012 by News4Jax.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.