Four American pit bull terriers rescued from a Wyoming home are embroiled in an unusual custody bid by federal investigators, who contend the animals were part of a dog fighting operation with international ties.

Federal prosecutors on Thursday, Feb. 8, filed a forfeiture complaint seeking custody of the animals, which were seized during an early December raid by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the FBI at a home on Osmer Avenue SW in Wyoming.

Two of the dogs are black, one is tan and one is described as brindle. The four female adults had scars that indicate involvement in dog fighting, court records show.

Federal agents say numerous people were involved in dog fighting operations with ties to Ingham, Eaton and Kent counties. Participants include two Lansing brothers facing federal animal fighting charges.

Participants trained and maintained fighting dogs under the guise of an organization named ‘‘Stick Wit (sic) Me Kennels.’’ They had ties to a dog fighting enterprise out of Ecuador, court documents show.

Federal charges have not been filed against the man whose Wyoming home was raided on Dec. 7. Investigators found the four dogs “chained up in the snow-covered backyard,’’ court records show. “The backyard was fenced-in and contained numerous doghouses. Upon information and belief, the dogs permanently reside outside.’’

A search of the home, garage and yard turned up a first aid kit, lubricating jelly, syringes and medications “commonly used to treat dogs involved in dog-fighting matches,’’ court records show.

Agents also identified numerous dog collars, rope leashes, dog crates and two springs consistent with a device used to condition dogs to clamp down on what they are biting.

In the 12-page forfeiture complaint, Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel S. Fauson sheds light on dog fighting operations, which he describes as a violent contest involving dogs bred and conditioned to fight. The animals "attack each other for purposes of entertaining or gambling,’’ he wrote.

“Fights usually end when one dog withdraws, when a handler ‘picks up’ his dog and forfeits the match or when one or both dogs die.’’

Participants maintain contact with other dog fighters around the country and can generate substantial income from gambling on dog fights and from the sale and breeding of fighting animals, Fauson wrote.

Dog fighters maintain a stock of several dogs to increase the odds of having an animal whose weight meets the requirements for a match being solicited by an opponent, court documents show.

Animals classified as pit bull-type dogs are preferred for their compact, muscular build, short coat, and the aggression that some display towards other dogs, Fauson wrote.

Dogs involved in organized fights may have scars, puncture wounds, swollen faces or mangled ears, Fauson wrote. Scars from organized dog fights are commonly found on the face and front legs, as well as on hind legs and thighs.

“Dog fighters must possess an inventory of dogs because dogs often die or are badly injured during fights,’’ Fauson wrote. “Dogs that lose fights or fail to show ‘gameness’ are often killed. It is not uncommon for dogs that lose matches to be killed in cruel, torturous and inhumane ways as punishment."

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