|By Bob Weaver|
A major dogfighting operation in Calhoun County is coming to light, following the death of 87-year-old Edward Barrera.
The Humane Society of the United States says it has been working closely with the Calhoun County Sheriff's Department in the investigation and arrest of an alleged dog-fighter.
Calhoun Chief Deputy Carl Ballengee says 30-year-old Dwayne Smith, a neighbor of Barerra's, was arrested and charged Tuesday for his alleged involvement in the dogfighting operation.
The arrest indicates Smith was aware of the operation and participated in it.
Smith said, according to a criminal complaint, that hundreds of dogs are buried on the hill behind Barrera's house, or "numbers he cannot even begin to count."
In a taped interview, Smith says he buried 27 dogs in one day.
This is the first dogfighting arrest in West Virginia since the state statute was changed in 2003 to list dogfighting as a felony offense.
"It was very clear that the now deceased owner of these dogs had longtime ties to organized dogfighting and Smith was his partner in the dogfighting operation," said Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting law enforcement for the Humane Society of the United States.
"The dogs we found were suffering in the bitter cold and bore the scars indicating they were the abused victims of dogfighting. We commend the Calhoun County Sheriff's department for taking swift action in this case," said the society.
Humane officials say "fighting dogs" have few
friends, living lives of brutality and unspeakable
cruelty at the hands of those who gamble on their deaths
(Pictures above are examples of some of the results of dog
fighting, they are not dogs removed from the Barrera property)
The HSUS, along with Jo Staats from West Virginia Pit Bull Haven, found many of the dogs had scarring consistent with fighting.
Other evidence of dogfighting such as conditioning equipment, a trailer converted into a dogfighting pit, blood spatter on the walls and blood on the carpet were also found on the property.
Barrera's computer was also seized following the discovery of his body.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization, backed by 11 million Americans. It has been in operation for a half-century.
Both the Humane Society and Pit Bull Haven officials have been in Calhoun this week participating in the investigation.
Deputy Ballengee said the investigation is ongoing.
See related story UPDATED: CALHOUN MAN ARRESTED FOR DOGFIGHTING ACTIVITIES - Hundreds Of Dogs Buried On Barrera Property, 'Can't Count Numbers,' Says Accused, Buried 27 In One Day