13 arrested in Milwaukee dogfighting probe

MILWAUKEE (WITI) — A series of early morning raids in Milwaukee on Thursday, April 3rd resulted in 13 arrests and the recovery of nearly two dozen dogs involved in an illegal dogfighting operation.

Federal, county and local law enforcement agencies were joined by the ASPCA during a news conference in which they announced the raid was the result of a multi-year investigation.

"I saw like five or six of them out here, over there, taking pictures of the house across the street there and I don't know what was going on but they had the dogs and the animals and rescue animal rescue out here," said Geneva Davis.

All that activity woke Davis up early Thursday morning. Little did she know, she was witnessing authorities bust an alleged dogfighting operation.

"I saw one dog come out that they brought out. What kind of dog was it do you know? Like a pit maybe," said Davis.

All told, investigators hit several locations, rounding up 22 live dogs and taking 13 people into custody.

"The principal focus of the charges is the sale the purchase the possession the training of various pit bulls on various states recently and in the distant past," said James Santelle, U.S. Attorney. "That includes the breeding of pit bulls for dogfighting competitions where spectators and participants place bets on the outcome of those competitions."

One of the accused is 24-year-old Thomas Zollicoffer. According to a criminal complaint, Zollicoffer is accused of hosting dogfighting in the basement of a Milwaukee home during the summer of 2011.

Dogs that didn't dominate didn't last. One criminal complaint says some were disposed of "by hanging them from...basement beams" until they died from strangulation.

Authorities found one dog dead when they arrived on scene. The others have been turned over to the Milwaukee Area Domestic Animal Control Commission (MADACC) for care.

"Obviously if they're fighting dogs, they likely will need medical care. A lot of times they have a lot of scars and bites and things like that that need to be taken care of," said Carianne Yerkes of the Milwaukee Police Department.

FOX6 News is told dogfighting operations are all too common -- both in Wisconsin and across the country. Even so, authorities say this is a significant victory.

"Animal abuse is not just about the animal. It branches off into family abuse, it branches off into violent crime," said Yerkes. "And the Milwaukee Police Department is committed to reducing violence in this city and today with these indictments and arrests and search warrants we have accomplished that."

Authorities are still searching for one individual who they believe was involved in this dogfighting operation. But again, we're told they currently have 13 people in custody.

MADACC will not comment on the condition of the animals or if they will be adopted out.