"I don't believe they were actually fighting the dogs [on the property]," BCSO Investigator Keith Milner said. "They might have been doing what they call 'rolling,' sparring some of the dogs. There were 12 dogs there in poor living conditions, standing in muddy, swampy ground, chained with big, heavy chains. Most had no water, no food when we were there. Several of the dogs had old scars on their bodies from possible fighting. We did locate pictures of dogs that had been in fights."
Also allegedly found during the search of Hurley's home, for which he was not present, were steroids and first aid medicines.
"A lot of these are steroids and supplements to beef the dogs up. Some of them are antibiotics to doctor the injuries. They were found inside the home and there were a lot of hypodermic needles and stuff like that also," Milner said. "Some of these can be ordered off the Internet, none of it you have to have a prescription to get. A lot of it you can buy at feed-and-seed stores or local farm supply stores."
Due to the poor living conditions, Bartow County Animal Control officials took physical custody of the pit bulls, which Maj. Doug Duncan said were not aggressive. Ten of the 12 are expected to be up for adoption after authorities seize the animals.
"It was very heartbreaking to see an animal in that condition, especially the ones that were standing in mud," Milner said, adding that often dogs are made to fight to the death but authorities have no evidence of dogfighting activity in Bartow County.
Captions on the photographs of injured animals found in the home referenced partying. Investigators shared those disturbing images with The Daily Tribune News, which chose not to publish them.
"I don't see how they could justify putting those captions on the bottom of those pictures if that was an accident. It don't look like too good a party to me," Milner said. "This is the first case [in Bartow County] I've been involved in and I don't recall any other dogfighting cases in Bartow County. We don't believe fighting was going on in this location, but the investigation is ongoing and if it is happening in Bartow County, we're going to do our best to put a stop to it."
Investigators found evidence suggesting Hurley had additional dogs, but Milner declined comment on that aspect of the probe, citing an ongoing investigation and possible additional arrests and charges. He added that a county ordinance would have limited Hurley to three dogs on his 1 acre of property where he and his wife live in mobile home.
Milner said Norred, a corporate security and investigations firm that performs pro bono work for animal rights groups, contacted the local law enforcement agency to report Hurley's alleged operation, providing surveillance footage dating back to February. Hurley's name came up in the June dismantling of an alleged Polk County dog fighting operation and previously in another raid in February, Milner said.
In the wake of the 2007 Michael Vick dogfighting case, Norred established an anonymous animal fighting tip line at 877-215-2250 and the Humane Society of the United States offers up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in animal fighting, according to www.norred.com.
After his arrest, Hurley, who Milner said could also be tied to dogfighting rings in south Georgia and South Carolina, developed chest pains and was admitted to a Rome hospital, where he was boarded Tuesday during a press conference to announce the arrest.
Hurley is charged with felony dogfighting and 12 counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals.
Gov. Sonny Purdue in 2008 signed legislation that strengthens Georgia's dogfighting law, making it a felony to own, possess, train, transport or sell a dog for the purpose of dogfighting.