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SAN PABLO CITY - Severely injured, skeletal, and fighting for their lives.
These describe the poor condition of almost 300 pit bulls and mixed pit bull breeds rescued from a Korean syndicate operating an elaborate dogfighting arena in Laguna.
Representatives from the non-government Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) were shocked by what they saw. The dogs with bloodshot eyes, ripped ears and tongues, snouts slashed, and skinned paws, were individually holed up in rusty old steel drums with dirty water and food.
"Sugat-sugat ang face, skeletal sila (Their faces had lots of bruises and they were skeletal). You can see the ribs, they have a lot of deep wounds and cuts conclusive of fights. Their legs were crippled...their ears were ripped," said May Felix Razon, PAWS campaign specialist said.
The dogs nonetheless remained alert despite their horrid condition, ready to fight in case another canine goes near them.
A total of 248 dogs were rescued in a two-hectare lot in Purok 3, Barangay San Gabriel. Seeventeen of them were euthanized Saturday for being in poor medical condition. [See: How 300 pit bulls broke my heart]
PAWS will continue with their medical assessment of the dogs and there is a possibility that many more of the canines will be put down.
"Initially we started our assessment and we will continue coming here and feed the dogs. We've already put down 17 or more dogs. Some of them died due to a lot of injuries," Razon said.
But the worst is far from over for the rescued dogs. The canines need shelter, but the animals cannot be easily adopted because they are trained to fight, according to Razon.
"At the sight of another dog they will attack to the death. Pag may maliit na bata na magaslaw o mag-movement na will signify an attack they will become defensive [If there is a child who moves a lot and the canines think the movements signify attack, they will become defensive]," Razon said.
The pit bulls were earlier rescued by operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) in simultaneous operations in this city and in Calauan town on Friday.
Chief Insp. Renante Galang of CIDG-Quezon City said authorities had received information that an elaborate dogfighting ring was being operated by Koreans in the city. After two weeks of surveillance, police applied a search warrant that led to the rescue of the dogs and the arrest of eight Koreans.
In Calauan, Galang said police had also discovered a "high-tech" arena where the fightings were held before a global audience. Bettors use credit cards to place their bets on the fighting canines.
"The arena is equipped with high-tech cameras with fiber optics. This is through the Internet beamed to a global audience," Galang said.
Razon said the group was also surprised at how fast the Korean syndicate was able to set up a dogfighting ring quickly, considering these were the same Koreans arrested in a previous raid of a dogfighting arena in Indang, Cavite last year.
"Two of them (Koreans) were arrested in the previous raid, it's the second time this has happened... Imagine they can build-up in less than six months," Razon said.
According to police, the lot where the dogs stayed is owned by a certain "Dr. Pong," whose nationality remains unknown.
Supt. Ferdinand de Castro, city police chief, said the dogs were spotted by residents since early this year and were surprised at how fast the canines grew in number.
"Noong una kokonti lang 'yan kaya hindi napapansin. Tsaka wala naman dito ang arena kaya hindi napagdudahan. Napansin na lang namin na dumami [At first, they were just few thus nobody noticed. And the arena was not here so nobody suspected about the operations until we noticed they grew in number]," said de Castro.
PAWS said it was possible that some of the dogs rescued in Cavite were later on brought to Laguna to be used again in the dogfighting arena.
InterAksyon.com learned that of the almost 300 dogs rescued in Indang last year, only less than a hundred were turned over to animal welfare groups. The rest were given to various people by the local veterinarian.
PAWS said the Koreans could have retrieved these dogs and used them again in their gambling business.
The suspects will be charged for violation of the Animal Welfare Act and for illegal gambling but both of these are bailable offenses.
But the police and PAWS are calling for stiffer penalties against the perpetrators. They said the law against animal cruelty should be amended.
"Kailangan stiffer penalties on the law and amend the animal welfare act. Pag ganitong magnitude, no bail. This is cruelty. Cruelty can equate to human violence," Razon said. [See: Volunteers needed for pit bulls]