SEFFNER, Fla.- Found with a bright red, bloody nose, the first dog brought into animal services got the name Rudolph. He had other wounds across his body and was one of seven animals rescued Tuesday following a dog fighting bust at a secluded home in Seffner.
"The individual there actually admitted to us that he has been fighting dogs out there for 20 years and jokingly said we were walking on a graveyard," said Sgt. Pam Perry, investigations manager for Hillsborough County Animal Services.
Deputies arrested two men after discovering the injured dogs living in horrific conditions. The suspects were identified as 55-year-old Vannie Franklin and his nephew 41-year-old Russell Franklin. Both are facing a slew of felony charges including dog fighting, possession of animals used for dog fighting, animal cruelty, improper confinement, possession of marijuana, and possession of firearms by a convicted felon.
"The stench out there of feces and it smelled like dead bodies," said Sgt. Perry.
But it wasn't just neglect, according to investigators.
"There was also a chain with a collar and as you reached the end of that chain with the collar and looked up to a mound there was a jaw and a skull of a dog."
Investigators say the property was clearly set up for fighting.
"There was also a pit out there with blood on the carpeting and blood on the carpeting around the pit," said Sgt. Perry.
We had to walk about a third of a mile down a dirt drive just to get to the home where the dogs were found. Investigators say the dog fighting was happening so far off the main road it would have been impossible for neighbors to hear what was going on.
"Wow, I can't see that happening," said neighbor Fred Chester. "I've been back in there one time or another, there's a little white house, but I can't see that. I'm just shocked!"
A woman who identified herself as sister to one of the suspects claimed she was unaware of any abuse.
"I'm just devastated," said Vannie Frankin's sister Deloris. "It's unbelievable. I can't believe stuff like that was going on out here with the dogs like that."
The county says it's now taking good care of the dogs with hopes of one day finding them all new homes.
"They deserve to live the rest of their life in luxury," said Sgt. Perry. "Because they were living in a kill zone."
Beau Zimmer, 10 News