Saturday, November 15, 2008

Raid follows largest undercover dogfight sting in U.S. history

By Brad Woodard / 11 News

HOUSTON -- A non-descript warehouse on the east side of Houston has been the scene of brutal and bloody dogfights every week for the past eight months.
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“A dog show, a dog fight or whatever you want to call it, is the Saturday night poker game for hard core criminals,” said Sgt. Manning, of the DPS Criminal Intelligence Service.

Sgt. Manning asked us not to use his first name because of undercover nature of his job. He and another DPS investigator have spent the last 15 months infiltrating the seedy world of dogfighting in Houston.

“It’s the largest undercover dogfighting operation in the country,” said Assistant Harris Co. D.A. Belinda Smith. “And nothing like this has ever been done in Houston, or in Texas.”

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Several dogs were taken into custody at raids across the Houston area.

After gaining the trust of some key “dog men, “ as they refer to themselves, Manning and his partner set up shop in an east Houston warehouse where they staged “dog shows” virtually every weekend.

“We’re talking big money. Several thousand dollars per fight,” said Manning. “We’ve heard stories of dog fights from hundreds of thousands into the millions of dollars.”

Also surprising: the broad spectrum of the people who showed up.

“We’ve got everything from a school teacher with no criminal history whatsoever, to several individuals in the oil industry,” said Manning. "We have individuals who’ve been arrested for capital murder, narcotics dealers and bank robbers. It truly reaches across all boundaries.”

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These puppies were among 14 dogs seized from one northeast Houston property.

The undercover agents took some disturbing video of the dogfights.

"What you see is animals bloodied, battered and bruised screaming in pain," Smith said. "Animals that are staggering in the ring. Other animals who are trying to climb out of the ring."

"You see these animals suffering. You hear their suffering, but you also hear these people screaming in delight to their despair," Manning said. "They have some serious moral issues."

After all is said and done, authorities expect to arrest 85 people in multiple counties on over 155 felony charges.

They will also seize hundreds of dogs with help from the Houston Humane Society and the Houston SPCA.

11 News went along with law officers for the busts Friday morning and was there when a DPS SWAT team swarmed a northeast Harris County property.

The suspect's wakeup call came in the form of a noise flash diversion. And from the looks of Donald Wayne Woods, still clad in pajama bottoms, it was a wakeup call he wasn’t expecting.

Officers arrested Woods on felony dogfighting charges and seized 10 dogs and four puppies from the property.

It was the first of many raids to take place.

The investigation, called Operation Dead Game, was a joint effort between DPS, the USDA and the Harris County District Attorney’s office.

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