WYANDANCH, Suffolk County (WABC) -- Three people are now charged following a crackdown of what authorities are describing as a barbaric dog fighting ring on Long Island.
Authorities say the pit bulls were bred and kept in deplorable conditions while being trained to fight to the death, all for the profit of their owners.
Investigators describe it as a sickening yet sophisticated training operation, and three men from Wyandanch are facing multiple felony counts related to animal cruelty. The suspects were identified as 34-year-old Richard Davis, 49-year-old Martin Newkirk and 26-year-old Taikeem Wheeler.
The men allegedly ran so-called kennels throughout the area, but New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says that word fails to accurately describe the situation.
"These were not real kennels," he said. "They were prisons of torture for countless dogs."
Authorities say 36 dogs were rescued, half of them puppies including one that was only a week old. Three of the dogs had to be euthanized.
Schneiderman also said that the dogs were given performance enhancers, were tethered at times, and were forced to wear weighted vests and run on treadmills to become stronger and tougher.
The arrests come after a tip and then an investigation involving surveillance and search warrants, which were executed at the homes of two of the men.
The investigation, dubbed Operation Bloodline, was conducted through the Attorney General's Organized Crime Task Force with help from the Suffolk County Police Department.
According to Schneiderman, it is estimated that at least 40,000 people are involved with dog fighting across the country. The illegal gambling from dog fighting can earn organizers tens of thousands of dollars at a time.
The ASPCA has been providing shelter and medical care for the dogs that were rescued, in addition to veterinary forensic expertise and evidence collection.
"Dog fighting is a barbaric act that exploits the trusting nature of innocent animals and condemns them to a life of violence and suffering for human profit," said Matt Bershadker, president and CEO of the ASPCA. "We are thankful for our partners in prosecution and law enforcement for continuously increasing their commitment to eradicating this inhumane blood sport, which tragically persists in the dark corners of our society."