Panola County dog fighting bust results in 29 canines rescued, 1 arrested

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Nearly 30 dogs have been rescued after authorities in Panola County busted a dog fighting operation over the weekend.

The Panola County Sheriff’s Office reports that their call center was dialed from 256 Rayburn Road, west of Como, around 7:05 p.m. Saturday night, but the caller immediately hung up.

Deputy Brian Howell responded to the location and encountered a large group of people who reportedly fled in multiple vehicles — many of which were from other counties and states. It was determined that dogfighting was taking place.

Backup was requested and other deputies arrived to secure the scene. Officers then rescued 29 dogs that were said to be in various stages of health. Deputies say many of the canines had scars from previous fights.

During the course of the investigation, 13 vehicles on location were seized. Authorities believe the cars belonged to those involved in the dog-fighting operation.

37-year-old Damien Jay Smoot, the owner of the home facilitating the fights, was taken into custody. He is charged with felony dog fighting.

“We applaud the Panola County Sheriff’s Office for cracking down on a dogfighting operation,” Wayne Pacelle, president of Animal Wellness Action, said. “Dogfighting is one of the most despicable crimes, and whenever it’s uncovered, people rightly ask how anyone could be so cruel and ruthless. Only with this kind of strenuous enforcement will we see the demise of dogfighting in our nation.”

The PCSO is now working with animal health specialists to get the dogs the proper treatment. More arrests are expected in this case.

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