Richmond County deputies recovered 14 pit bulls and what they described as equipment used to train dogs for fighting Wednesday afternoon in several houses on Kent and Luckey streets, both near Martin Luther King Boulevard.
Lt. Scott Gay said seven people have been arrested on various drug charges and outstanding warrants but none have yet been charged with dogfighting or animal cruelty.
Lt. Gay stressed that the sheriff's office and the Richmond County Department of Animal Services were in the very early stages of their investigation, but wounds on the animals and training equipment found at the scene, lead them to believe the dogs were trained for that purpose.
"We believe that this is part of a dogfighting ring," Lt. Gay said.
He said they were not yet sure whether the animals were trained for fighting or to be used as "bait animals" for other dogs.
Members of the Richmond County crime suppression team were patrolling the area when they saw three dogs chained to a tree in the 1100 block of Kent Street. Agatha Flournoy, 53, who lives in the home, was arrested on an outstanding warrant. Across the street, police discovered three people living in an abandoned home without power or water. Inside deputies found a shotgun and cocaine. Those inside were charged with disorderly conduct and issued bench warrants.
Police noticed that a power line had been strung from the abandoned house to yet another home on Kent Street, where they found six more pit bulls tied to separate trees and a treadmill device that was modified for use with the animals.
Police also arrested David Gibson, Jr., 23, and James Fitzgerald Hicks, 43, both on disorderly conduct charges; and Anthony Way, 49, and Alvin Lee Haynes, 19, on outstanding warrants.
The Kent Street investigation ultimately led police to a residence in the 1600 block of Luckey Street, where five more pit bulls were recovered. The animals appeared to have suffered "cruel and inhumane treatment and injuries consistent with dogfighting," Lt. Gay said.
Two people were arrested on Luckey Street. Ryan Rufus Harris was charged with giving a false name and having an outstanding warrant and Jeter Pharnet, 27, was charged with disorderly conduct.
Authorities are also searching for 23-year-old Carlton Jones, the owner of one of the Kent Street residences who is believed to be the owner of the animals, said Bruce McClure, a field supervisor for animal services.
All three of the Kent Street homes lacked electricity or water, which prompted deputies to call the Richmond County Health Department, Lt. Gay said. Deputies found buckets of human feces and urine, in addition to dog chains and harnesses inside Mr. Jones' home, he said.
Lt. Gay said the incidents do not mark Augusta as a hotbed for dogfighting activity. "No more or less for a city of this size."
"The investigation is ongoing and we expect to make arrests related to the dogs and cruelty to animals sometime Thursday," he said.
Reach Adam Folk or Timothy Cox at (706) 724-0851.