‘Key figure’ in multi-state dogfighting ring arrested in Iredell County

A man accused of being a “key figure” in a dogfighting ring across North Carolina and South Carolina is now behind bars, according to the Iredell County Sheriff’s Office.

Deputies with the sheriff’s office raided a home on Whitney Lane, west of Statesville, on Thursday after an investigation into alleged dogfighting.

At the home, investigators found items used to train dogs to fight, medication for injured dogs, a firearm, and 25 dogs. The sheriff’s office shared pictures of the scene on Friday.

Photos: Key figure in dogfighting ring arrested in Iredell County

A dog in a makeshift outdoor kennel.
A dog in a makeshift outdoor kennel.
A yard with outdoor kennels in an alleged dogfighting ring.
A yard with outdoor kennels in an alleged dogfighting ring.
Dogfighting training equipment found by deputies at a Statesville home.
Dogfighting training equipment found by deputies at a Statesville home.
Equipment used to train dogs for dogfighting, deputies say.
Equipment used to train dogs for dogfighting, deputies say.
25 dogs were seized from a home during a raid in connection with a dogfighting ring.
25 dogs were seized from a home during a raid in connection with a dogfighting ring.
Deputies arrest Claude Sanders Jr.
Deputies arrest Claude Sanders Jr.

Sheriff Darren Campbell said in a statement that investigators found most of the outside kennels were covered in feces and urine. The sheriff said, “Several of the dogs had obvious scars and facial injuries from previous dog fights.”

According to the sheriff’s office, Claude Anthony Sanders Jr. was arrested for 24 counts of felony cruelty to animals, felony possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, and possession of marijuana. He also has a previous arrest for felony dog fighting.

Campbell said that investigators identified Sanders as a “key figure in the training, distributing, and arranging of dog fights in North Carolina, South Carolina, and other states.” The dogs were all seized as part of the federal investigation, according to the sheriff’s office.

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Sanders, 46, was booked into custody on a $200,000 secured bond.

Several neighbors said they spotted Sanders walking one of the dogs with a chain attached to it and pulling a weight.

“The dog, when he was walking through the neighborhood, he had a big chain on it and a weight walking it up the road. I guess he was giving it strength training,” Dan Boggs said.

Boggs lives just down the street in the neighborhood that’s made up of retirees and younger families.

“It’s not good,” he said.

At the home on Whitney Lane, “No Trespassing” and “Keep Out” signs were posted on Monday.

One of the lead investigators told Channel 9′s Dave Faherty he doesn’t believe the dogfighting was happening there, but elsewhere across the Carolinas. He said an animal rescue group has come in to help with the dogs.

(WATCH: Possible dogfighting pit raided in Iredell County)