MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Sixteen pit bulls rescued from a dogfighting ring in the Philippines were euthanized Tuesday for lack of facilities to rehabilitate them and prevent them from reappearing in underground arenas.
Roughly 300 dogs were rescued in separate raids late Friday in Laguna province south of Manlia, said Anna Cabrera of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society. Seventeen with the worst injuries were put down over the weekend, and the health of the living dogs and the progress of rehabilitating them will determine how many of them ultimately survive.
Police arrested eight South Koreans suspected of running an illegal online gambling operation in which players outside the Philippines bet on dogs fighting at a clandestine compound.
Some of the dogs rescued Friday were saved from another facility in Cavite province in December, Cabrera said. She said the dogs were "recycled" — adopted by people who resold them to the suspects to continue fighting.
"That is a fate worse than death," she said.
"We don't want that to happen for a second time, and in light of security issues, we have opted to put the pit bulls humanely to sleep if no one steps forward with a plan to rehabilitate and shelter them," she said.
Two of the suspects arrested last week had been caught in the December raid but had posted bail, police Chief Inspector Renante Galang said.
Welfare society veterinarian Wilford Almora said many of the pit bulls — purebred and mixed breeds — suffered ripped ears and tongues and other wounds in previous fights.
He said his group had enough drugs to euthanize 70 dogs and sixteen were put down Tuesday.
He said they selected the most sick, emaciated and aggressive animals to put down first. Some of the dogs were too weak to stand, he said.
He said they were taking time to carefully assess each dog before finally deciding which ones to put to down.
"We are not in a hurry. We just want to make sure that the ones we put to sleep are the ones that deserve to be put to sleep based on their medical condition," he said.
Cabrera said it was not possible to care for all the pit bulls that were rescued and it would be irresponsible to give away for adoption the animals that have not properly healed.
The dogs had been kept in metal fuel drums and tied to heavy steel chains inside a 2-hectare (5-acre) coffee plantation surrounded by a fence made of corrugated tin in San Pablo city in Laguna. Police recovered 30 dogs from an arena in the nearby town of Calauan where they were about to fight, Almora said.
The eight suspects face charges of illegal gambling and cruelty to animals.
The San Pablo city prosecutor has not yet completed a preliminary investigation to determine if evidence is strong enough for a court case. In the meantime, Galang said police will turn them over to immigration officials.
If convicted of illegal gambling, they face a maximum of 12 years in prison. The charge of animal cruelty carries a penalty of up to two years, but no one has served time in the Philippines for the crime. A student recently found guilty of killing a cat received a few months of community service.
Dogfighting is not common in the Philippines, and the fights were broadcast mostly outside the country.
Associated Press writer Bullit Marquez contributed to this report.