GASTON COUNTY, N.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) – Seven dogs have been rescued and an arrest has been made in connection to an alleged dogfighting operation in Gaston County, according to the Gaston County Police Department and the Humane Society of the United States.
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Authorities served a search and seizure warrant on a 1.5-acre property at approximately 7:30 a.m. in the 500 block of Queens Road in Gastonia. Seven dogs were found covered in fleas and have visible scarring, consistent with injuries typically seen in dogfighting cases, officials with the HSUS said.
The dogs were found living outside on heavy, weighted chains and did not have access to adequate shelter: only blue barrels and dilapidated wooden shacks.
The Gaston County Police Department requested the assistance of the HSUS after concerns about the welfare of animals on the property were raised. The HSUS is transporting the rescued animals to an undisclosed location where they will continue to receive veterinary exams and evaluations.
The homeowner, Rico Pagan, of Gastonia, has been charged with three felonious counts of dogfighting. The charges are for the training, promotion, and participation in dogfighting. Pagan has also been charged with 12 felonious counts of animal cruelty. He is currently incarcerated in the Gaston County Jail on a $125,000 bond awaiting his first appearance in court, Gaston Police said.
“It is gut-wrenching to imagine the violence and pain these dogs have been forced to endure,” said Gail Thomssen, North Carolina state director for the Humane Society of the United States. “We are thankful to the Gaston County Police Department for getting these dogs desperately needed help. Thanks to everyone involved, today is the last day that these dogs will have to live like this.”
Dogfighting is currently a Class H felony in North Carolina. In May 2021, the North Carolina House of Representatives unanimously passed House Bill 544, sponsored by Rep. Carsen Smith (R-16), a former sheriff. As passed, the bill prohibits minors from attending dogfights or cockfights, but discussions are already underway to strengthen the bill in the Senate by including a ban on the manufacture, possession, or sale of dogfighting paraphernalia and training equipment.