Animal abuse is becoming a huge problem in the state of Tennessee. There have already been several high-profile cases this year, but those cases aren't always easy to spot.
Officers and prosecutors got some hands-on training Thursday to help them combat animal abuse and put the people responsible behind bars.
"Dog-fighting rings are notoriously insular. They are very protective," said Assistant District Attorney Shannon Poindexter. "Outsiders are not going to get the information about where these fights are taking place."
So the secretive nature of the rings is the first hurdle for investigators to clear while trying to get information so they can build their cases. And people who handle these cases say people of all races - rich and poor - take part in animal fighting rings.
"It's across-the-board with economics, et cetera. It's not just one race or culture of people we're seeing that in," said animal fighting investigator Janette Reever.
In one recent high-profile dog-fighting investigation, Metro police seized dozens of dogs and nearly a quarter-million dollars off Pewitt Road.
Most cases aren't nearly that big, though, and Reever says as dog fighting declines another kind of animal fighting is growing in Middle Tennessee: cock fighting.
Prosecutors say animal fighting rings are often hard to crack, so they're usually only caught in connection with another criminal investigation.
And she says there's a pretty simple reason why she's seeing more of this illegal activity here.
"This is one of the handful of states where the penalties are very weak. Therefore, it's a magnet for people to come to this jurisdiction," Reever said.
Reever and a couple other instructors gave a daylong training session to police officers, prosecutors and humane officers, showing them ways to make their cases easier to prosecute.
Still, she says the best line of defense is a watchful public.
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