An anonymous tip led Hillsborough County authorities to what they say is a dog graveyard full of bones and carcasses. They say it's part of a dogfighting ring that's been around for decades.
Seven surviving dogs were confiscated late Tuesday afternoon after enduring what can only be described as torture. They were starved, abused and forced to fight to the death.
It was all for the entertainment of a man who's been dog fighting for 20 years.
"They deserve to live the rest of their life in luxury because they were living in a kill zone," said Investigator Pam Perry.
That kill zone was home to 2-year old "Rudolph," named for his crimson-red nose shimmering with blood when he was rescued.
"Clearly these injuries were due to the animals fighting," Perry said.
He's one of seven dogs found alive in squalor, and he is one of the lucky ones. Hundreds of animals died at this remote home off Stark Road in Seffner.
"Walking around the property, you know that you are walking on dogs that have passed away or have been discarded or have been executed," Perry said.
Few knew what was happening here, but someone had an idea. An anonymous tip led investigators to Vanny and Russell Franklin. They face several felonies from animal cruelty to dog fighting to improper confinement, as well as drug and weapons charges.
"While we were at the property, the individual there actually admitted to us that he's been fighting dogs out there for 20 years and jokingly said that we were walking on a graveyard," Perry said.
Skulls, bones and chains were scattered around, some leading to decomposing jaw bones. Other chains tethered Rudolph and the six others who survived. They spent their lives being forced to fight for entertainment, for gambling and for the vicious sport of it. It all happened too far from civilization to draw concern.
"These are very nice dogs. They are very friendly with people. And they deserve better," Perry said.
The owner must officially release the dogs to animal services before they can consider adoption.
More arrests are expected in this case. It may be an isolated property, but with hundreds of dogs killed, it's likely more people witnessed these horrific dog fights and even participated.
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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