They stemmed from raids on homes in Alabama and Georgia and the seizure of more than $500,000 in cash that investigators believe was tied to illegal gambling on dog fights.
The defendants are charged with conspiring to promote and sponsor dog fights and arranging for dogs to be at the fights in several south and east Alabama counties and in Holly Springs, Miss., between 2009 and 2013.
Most of the defendants also are charged with conducting an illegal gambling business. One defendant is accused of winning $35,000 at a dog fight in Waverly in August 2011. Two others were stopped by officers with $12,000 in cash after attending a dog fight at a bar in Macon County in February 2012.
Federal, state and local officials simultaneously served search warrants to make arrests and seize dogs in Alabama, Georgia and Mississippi. Coffee County Sheriff David Sutton said the dogs at one Elba home were covered by fleas and were secured by heavy chains connected to car axles buried in the ground. Officials said some pit bulls were so malnourished their ribs were sticking out and others had bad wounds that required emergency care.
Officials with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Humane Society of the United States said the organizations are caring for the animals at undisclosed locations, and the animals will have to be kept as evidence while the case progresses. Eventually, they hope to retrain the dogs and get them new homes.