A man is behind bars after authorities in George County found more than 20 dogs, as well as drugs, believed to be involved in a dogfighting ring.
Kofe Bernard Riley, 38, is charged with running a dogfighting ring, possession of narcotics and stolen property. Nearly two dozen dogs were found behind a travel trailer on Bexley Road South in Lucedale, along with a quarter pound of marijuana and ecstasy. Several roosters were also found that authorities suspect were being fought, as well. A stolen ATV and motorcycle were also discovered on the property.
Investigators say they were tipped off to the possible dogfighting ring, and that tip turned out to be true.
"When they got out to the property, they could see in plain sight that there was a significant amount of animals on the property, dogs, and it looks like a dog fighting ring," said George County Sheriff Keith Havard.
The dogs included some as young as just a few months old, some who were pregnant, and even two tiny puppies that were chained up outside. The sheriff said investigators could see they had been used for fighting just by looking at them, adding that some of the dogs' wounds were as recent as this week.
"They hadn't been taken care of," said Sheriff Havard. "Some of the dogs were malnourished. They were out on the property on chains, they weren't in cages or anything like that."
"This was just, it's a horrible situation," said Angie Green with Dixie Adoptables, an animal rescue group in George County that operates out of the Lucedale Animal Shelter. Her team was called in to assist.
"We had to come out and help rescue these guys," said Green. "It's a horrible situation but that's what we do. We're there to help and to make sure the animals are secure and okay."
Dixie Adoptables loaded the dogs up in individual cages and took them to the George County Fairgrounds, where vets looked over the animals. Some, they decided, needed immediate attention and would stay overnight for treatment. One dog had an injured leg and puncture wounds to his backside. Another one, who is possibly pregnant, was missing an eye and had not received any medical treatment for it.
Despite their circumstances, investigators said the dogs are docile.
"They're not aggressive dogs," said the sheriff. "They're just glad to be out of there I think."
The dogs and roosters will remain at the fairgrounds overnight under constant watch. Crews will be back Thursday morning to determine where to house the animals while they undergo treatment.
Riley was booked into George County Regional Correctional Facility, where he is awaiting his initial appearance before a judge. Sheriff Havard said more arrests could be made.
Anyone with information about this case or other drug activity is encouraged to call the George County Sheriff's Office at (601) 947-4811, the Lucedale Police Department at (601) 947-3261, or Mississippi Coast Crime Stoppers at (877) 787-5898.
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