Dog-fighting suspect arrested; dogs and roosters seized

Published: Friday, April 1, 2011 at 5:06 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 at 10:42 p.m.

A Union County man was arrested and 24 dogs and 100 fighting roosters were seized Friday morning in what authorities say is the breakup of an animal fighting and training operation.

Eric S. Cox, 44, was arrested at his home in southwestern Union County in a multi-agency effort that included the Humane Society of the United States and law enforcement.

Additional felony animal cruelty charges for dog and rooster fighting will be filed, said Union County Sheriff's Maj. Garry Seay.

“We had information that there had been some fighting going on. They take these things to other counties and bigger cities for big fights,” Seay said. “The dog-fighting community is a close-knit community. It's hard to infiltrate them, but we did have some information and had been getting multiple complaints from the neighborhood.”

The animals were taken by the Humane Society to an undisclosed location, Seay said.

At the home, the dogs were on heavy chains, Seay said. Some looked relatively healthy, while others were in “pitiful” shape, Seay said. They all had signs of having fought, such as scars and cuts, he added.

Union County authorities said they had been investigating members of the Cox family on an unrelated case when the Humane Society got information about the operation on its national animal fighting tip line.

An investigation into the fighting was done by the Humane Society and a joint task force of the Union and Bradford County sheriff's offices and Starke police.

The Alachua County Sheriff's Office SWAT team was on hand for the arrest but Cox did not put up a fight, Seay said.

The Humane Society's Animal Rescue Team provided assistance on scene with evidence collection and seizure. Rescue team members brought a mobile crime lab to quickly and accurately document evidence on the scene.

“Animal fighting is a criminal underground industry that breeds horrible animal suffering and violence,” said Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for the organization, in a press release.

Bradford County Sheriff's Capt. Brad Smith said the animals apparently were not fought at the Cox home. They were raised and trained there, he said, adding that training equipment was seized.

Animal fighting is a felony in Florida with a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. Seay said Cox has past convictions for drug trafficking and weapons offenses.

The Humane Society offers rewards of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of someone involved in illegal animal fighting.

The anonymous tip line is (877) 847-4787.

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