27 Injured Pups Found in Man’s Backyard for Dog Fighting, Now Faces 135 Years in Jail

27 Injured Pups Found in Man’s Backyard for Dog Fighting, Now Faces 135 Years in Jail
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Twenty-seven dogs were found and rescued from what looked like a “major dog-fighting operation” in Sumter County, Florida, in mid-June of 2019, to the shock and dismay of the county’s authorities.

“While approaching the house,” Sumter County sheriff’s office shared on Facebook, “the residence of 38-year-old Alva T. Ridgeway, deputies observed in plain sight a dog-fighting pit with possible animal blood on the walls and equipment typically used in dog-fighting operations.”

The deputies who attended the scene also heard a number of dogs barking behind the home. After obtaining a search warrant, they went to investigate; what they saw was both deeply disturbing and highly illegal. “Deputies found other equipment consistent with dog-fighting,” the sheriff’s office continued, “including a treadmill and a stand used to force breeding.”

A number of photos of the dogs have been shared by the media, and they detail bite marks, extensive scarring, and even a badly torn ear on one pup.

The authorities believed that the dogs’ visible injuries and scars were consistent with dog fighting; a veterinarian later confirmed their suspicions. The dogs were also underweight, underfed, and severely neglected. They were swiftly taken to the Sumter County Animal Shelter for proper care and attention.

The 27 dogs found on Ridgeway’s property appeared to be pit bulls and pit bull mixes. They were tethered with logging chains, which, The Sumter Item explained, were too large and too short. “Chains used to tether dogs cannot be heavier than a 2-gauge chain and must be at least 15 feet long,” they wrote.

Ridgeway was keeping his dogs on chains as short as 6 feet. Adrienne Sarvis, Public Information Officer at the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, said that “a tethered dog must be able to reach shade, shelter, food and water, and cannot be sick or injured.”

Ridgeway could face a cumulative sentence of up to 135 years in prison and US$135,000 in fines if he is found guilty of the 27 counts of animal fighting and baiting, according to Sarvis. But that’s not all. Ridgeway has also been charged with 24 counts of animal cruelty, baiting, possession of a firearm by a violent felon, and possession of a stolen vehicle.

The Floridian has also been forced to sign over all 27 dogs to the county, and Sumter County Animal Shelter remains preoccupied with nursing them back to health. They must also ascertain whether these poor dogs are healthy enough, both mentally and physically, to be rehomed.

“We certainly want to save as many dogs as we can,” Sheriff Anthony Dennis said, “but we also want to protect the public should some of these dogs be too aggressive to take home.” The sheriff’s office is working with a veterinarian, and the shelter, to determine whether these traumatized dogs can be adopted.

Dennis explained that they had already been inundated with offers from the local community to foster or adopt the dogs. However, while some of the pit bulls are “receptive to human interaction,” their violent background could mean that their behavior is unpredictable.

“They could become aggressive if triggered by a specific moment, other animals, or objects that resemble equipment used for fighting and training,” The Sumter Item explained.
Sadly, one of the 27 pups didn’t make it after being extracted from the gruesome operation. The dog succumbed to “an infection brought on by a severe leg injury,” the Sumter County sheriff’s office explained in a Facebook update.

“Two other dogs are also in serious condition,” they continued, “one because of an infection from untreated wounds on the face and another because of an infection from repeated breeding.”

The entire ordeal is a sobering insight into the horrors of dog fighting that still exist behind closed doors, in backyards, and in the communities that we consider safe and moral. But Sheriff Anthony Dennis is determined; proper care for the dogs and a just sentence for Ridgeway will ensure the best possible outcome for 27 pit bulls who surely deserved better.

“Cases of animal cruelty will always be taken seriously and prosecuted to the fullest,” Dennis said.