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Tenerife illegal dog fighting ring was just “tip of the iceberg 

PAGE 5 TENERIFE

The raids by police on illegal dog fighting in Tenerife was just the tip of the iceberg, police have revealed.

It is believed to have been part of a much bigger international league and so far, 34 people have been arrested.

The network, involving a huge illegal betting operation with millions of euros being staked, controlled “fights to the death” bouts throughout Spain, including in Madrid, Alicante, Murcia and Tenerife.

Police recovered more than 230 dogs of all breeds, many of which were stolen in organised robberies and varied in size from Yorkshire terriers to bull mastifs.

Their mutilated bodies were found thrown into ravines or stuffed into bags, whilst others which survived were kept in terrible condiitons in rural kennels and deliberately trained to be aggressive.

One of the men arrested was known as “The Master” and is thought to have organised similar dog fights in the United Arab Emirates, Thailand and Mexico.

Ten people alone were arrested in Tenerife, including a local policeman believed to be part of the network which had regional, national and international leagues.

Police had raided a detached property in the early hours of the morning and initially arrested 20 suspects. More than 20 dogs were seized and taken away to vets or animal sanctuaries.

In Alicante, raids on five properties saw the seizure of around 20,000 euros, two guns and 350 marijuana plants. Officers found at least 50 dead dogs.

Dog fighting is said to be an “open secret” in Spain but anti-cruelty campaigners say it is time huge fines and prison sentences were imposed to act as a deterrent.

“If a gang of illegal fights is disarticulated, the maximum penalty that can be imposed is the disqualification for one year to develop activities related to animals, or fines of about 54,000 euros. Ridiculous penalties for people who earn thousands of euros in every fight,” said a spokesman for the animal party PACMA.

They say the dog fighting, involving a paying audience, was partly financed by drug trafficking. The animals themselves were given steroids to build their muscles.

Animal groups say they are totally shocked by the brutality and the training regime of the dogs which begins when puppies are given rewards for showing aggression.

When they are four months old, their “trainers” start to hit and beat them, once again encouraging the dogs to respond and defend themselves.

“From that moment, when they are already psychologically devastated, they are locked in dark rooms for hours in order to disorient them. Then, dogs have lost any social notion, and are unable to relate healthily to other animals or people.” says PACMA.

“These animals receive constant mistreatment and are brutally trained, with the sole aim of turning them into killing machines.”

Police believe their raids have broken the network up and suspects arrested include the ringleaders. However, the operation remains open.