TACOMA, Wash. — A man who was arrested for allegedly running a dog-fighting ring out of Tacoma is now suing Pierce County Animal Control to take back the 49 dogs that were removed from his home.

According to the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, animal control received a tip earlier in December that multiple pit bulls at a Tacoma home appeared to be starving and were possibly being used for breeding.

Deputies identified the owner of the dogs as 40-year-old Elmer Givens Jr. He was arrested and booked into the Pierce County Jail on first-degree animal cruelty and animal fighting charges.

He was released after posting bail.

An animal control officer visited the home and was shown six dogs. All of the dogs were malnourished, had wounds and scars, and were afraid of their owner, the sheriff’s department said.

A search warrant for the home on the 9000 block of Portland Ave. was served on Dec. 18. Officers found dozens of dogs locked in crates in a garage with no lighting or ventilation. The sheriff’s department said, “the dogs were lying in their own urine and feces.”

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"They were deplorable conditions," said Pierce County Sheriff's Detective Ed Troyer. "The dogs were living in small cages in the dark, no heat, inside their own urine and feces."

During the search, officers found items associated with dogfighting and breeding which included medications, syringes, first-aid supplies, and training tools.

Animal control officers rescued 49 dogs from the home, including puppies. The sheriff’s department said most of the dogs were in “poor” or “very poor” body condition.

The Pierce County Sheriff's Office said the dogs' conditions have improved "hundreds and hundreds of percentages." 

Eleven of the dogs were transported to a veterinarian for medical attention. The other 38 dogs were taken to the Tacoma Humane Society.

"Dog fighting is a brutal blood sport that is almost always operated solely for the purpose of conducting illegal gambling,” said Washington State Gambling Commission Director Dave Trujillo. “Thanks to a tip from an alert citizen, we’re able to shut down this criminal operation and rescue dozens of dogs.”

The Pierce County Sheriff’s Department, the Washington State Gambling Commission, and the Seattle Animal Shelter assisted Pierce County Animal Control in serving the search warrant.

The Seattle Humane Society is taking in existing shelter dogs from the Tacoma Humane Society so that Tacoma can dedicate their resources to the new dogs that have been put in their care. 

Givens is suing for possession of "multiple pit bull terriers," according to hand-written court documents. 

His civil court hearing is scheduled for Jan. 9. Givens will be representing himself in court. 

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