TYLER, TX (KLTV) - A search for narcotics leads authorities into what they say could be a possible dog fighting ring.
The find came last Friday when Tyler police searched a home off County Road 485 a few miles north of Tyler. The discovery of a few pit bulls soon led sheriff's deputies to find more than 25 dogs chained behind the home.
Their leashes were undone, chains unlocked and the pens that police say once held 25 pit bulls and five pit bull pups now sit empty. Friday, their dog owners sat in court discussing possession, facing the question of possible dog fighting.
"No, I didn't," said Tina Walton. "I'd never been back there so I wouldn't have."
Tina Walton claimed only one of the 30 dogs taken to an animal shelter.
"There's nothing wrong with my dog," she said. "He stays in the house. I can't go pick him up."
"This is probably the biggest amount of dogs pit bulls in one location I've ever seen," said Lieutenant Tony Dana.
A tip from Tyler police led Smith County authorities to a mobile home. The backyard turned dog pen soon grew to an even larger wooded area described in a criminal subpoena.
"Obvious wounds about the head and the bodies of these dogs," said Dana.
"They weighed these dogs down with large weights and chains to build up their muscle mass for dog fighting purposes."
The dog fighting tools are there, but authorities say the proof is harder to come by.
"It's a possibility charges will be filed at a later date but we've got a lot of work to do...We don't have a whole lot of owners that are laying claim to these dogs," explained Dana.
Some of the confiscated dogs will be returned to owners pending vaccinations. The rest will be put to sleep.
Owners who did claim their dogs have 10 days to get them vaccinated in compliance with county law or face another ticket.
Smith County authorities says they are continuing to build their case against the dog fighting.