Dogfighting ring busted in Apopka, police say

26 arrested; 34 dogs found at home

APOPKA, Fla. – The man police believe organized a dog fighting ring in Apopka told Local 6 he "loves his dogs" as bonded out of jail.

"Yes I do. I love my dogs very much," said Addel Dawson, Wednesday evening.

Twenty-six people were arrested in connection with a Central Florida dogfighting ring that included a treadmill, raccoon and up to 30 dogs, according to police.

[PHOTOS:  Dog-fighting ring busted in Apopka]

About 15 dogs, some bleeding, were removed from a home late Tuesday at 209 W. Seventh St. near Orange Blossom Trail in Apopka after a two-month investigation.  Up to 15 more were taken later by animal control officials, who will likely have to euthanize most of the dogs because of their aggressive tendencies, Apopka police said.

"They fought the dogs to the death," said Apopka police Sgt. Kim Walsh, who added that the investigation was prompted by an anonymous tip and that the fights were organized by social media.

The Apopka police chief said the dogfighting ring was the largest in the city's history.

Someone tipped off police to the dog fights and training that they said went on inside the Apopka home that was complete with a treadmill and punching bag used to toughen the pit bulls.

Police said the suspects used the small animals to teach the dogs to kill. Officers even had to use stun guns to pry dogs apart mid-fight.

In addition, two toddlers lived at the home, prompting police to contact the Florida Department of Children and Families.  Police said the home was in deplorable condition and was getting electricity from a neighboring lot.  A dog and litter of puppies were also found inside.

Apopka police said a dogfight was taking place when they made the bust.

More than 40 people scattered when police busted the dog ring Tuesday night, but police said the homeowner, Dawson, was the man behind it all.

"We made an announcement to everyone that was involved, and everyone on the premises tried to run," Walsh said.  "Individuals (were) running in this neighborhood. We set up a perimeter to apprehend as many as we possibly could."

Police said several people from across the state had dogs in cars outside the house ready to let their animals fight to the death.

"I think it's real crazy.  It's real crazy," said Darren Hopper, who lives nearby.

Caged chickens and rabbits were also discovered in the yard.

Four of the 26 people arrested were shocked by stun guns, and one was caught by a K-9, police said.

Adell Dawson is one of the man arrested who police say rented the house where the dogfighting ring occurred.

Dawson bonded out of jail on Wednesday afternoon and his son came to his defense.

"There was a lot of dogs, but no, they weren't bloodied and mangled. I take care of these dogs all the time, said Adell Dawson's son, Delvaugh Dawson. "I saw on the news -- they talked about using a punching bag to train dogs.  How the (expletive) do you use a punching bag to train dogs?"

Police say the punching bag was used as an attack simulator for the dogs, saying it had bite and claw marks all over it.

Adell Dawson faces a slew of charges, including animal cruelty.

"Yes I do. I love my dogs very much," said Addel Dawson, Wednesday evening.

The Orange County Animal Services said they will continue to care for the dogs, keeping them in isolation and will evaluate them to see if they could be adoptable.

"There's going to be a fight if these dogs are around other dogs at this time, when you walk one past another dogs kennel they are aggressive at the front of the kennel," said Diane Summers of OCAS.

The 26 arrested are facing third-degree felonies, meaning many could walk away with just probation and fines.

The Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando accepted the transfer of adoptable dogs from OCAS to help make room for the animals seized in the cruelty investigation.

For now, the dogs are being kept in isolation because they're too dangerous together.

Both agencies announced an adoption event for this weekend where people can adopt already-available dogs for a $15 fee.  They're hoping the reduced fee will help make more space available for the seized animals.

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