LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - There's a growing concern aboutmissing pets in the Lubbock area, concern that these animals could be used forhighly-organized, underground crime.
"It probably goes onmore than people think," said Shawn Byrd, Shelter Supervisor at LubbockAnimal Services.
"Something likethat is obviously hard to stomach when you think about the fact that humanswould do that to animals just for sport," said Sgt. Jason Lewis with theLubbock Police Department.
The highly organized,hidden, gruesome act is not just a sport. It's a crime.
"We see thetypical ripped ears, the scars on the muzzle, the lower extremities, kind ofsigns that they've been...I hate to use the word "professionally fought,"Byrd said.
That's right. Dogfighting.
KCBD has received manycomplaints on our Facebook page saying dogs have been taken from back yards andlater found mauled to death.
"It's not just somethingthat the celebrities, the Michael Vick, or anything like that do. It happens right here in our backyard,"said Byrd.
Nevertheless,Byrd says it's extremely hard to prove.
"It's so secret.They're not going to have it somewhere where there's a lot of people. They movearound. They probably don't ever have them in the same spot twice," hesaid.
Byrd says thesethieves are looking for all types of dogs.
"They can take Chihuahuas,they can take whatever size dog, anything really that's not going to fightback. They slowly work up to larger animals, up to the more aggressive dogsthat they want to be able to fight," Byrd said.
Last year a total of 43 dogswere reported stolen in the city of Lubbock.
Byrd admits the dog theftscould be related to dog fighting.
Byrd says just because he hasnot had any reports about dog fighting rings doesn't mean it doesn't happen.
Byrd says they call Lubbockpolice if they receive a report of dog fighting. The activity is frequentlyassociated with gambling,drugs, and illegal firearms as well.
Police say the crime is a felonybut it is hard to crack down on because it's such a highly secretive operation.
"Even if they don't have a dogthat they're fighting, probably they're going to be gambling. We obviously wantto get a hold of the property owner and have them locked up. There's no tellingexactly the charges...drugs, hard to say what you're going to run into. But myguess is if you run into one, you might run into all," said Sgt. Lewis
Lewis says animal cruelty is astate jail felony meaning those fighting dogs can face six months to two yearsimprisonment in a state jail facility and a fine up to $10,000.
State RepresentativeCharles Perry says he doesn't believe there should be more laws or stricterlaws in place. He says we should enforcethe ones we have.