"A lot of people in Texas still believe that dog fighting is entertainment," Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Lisa Block said. "We are here to tell you it is not entertainment. It is a crime."
The ring spanned five counties -- Matagorda, Tyler, Jasper, Montgomery and Harris -- and involved dog fights with as many as 100 spectators at a time who bet on the contests, officials said.
DPS officials and prosecutors would not describe the ring in detail because they said they were still looking for about 43 suspects. All, including the eight arrested Friday, were charged with engaging in dog fighting, a felony. Drug and gambling-related charges are pending, said Harris County Assistant District Attorney Belinda Smith.
Among those arrested Friday was Jay Andrews, 37, a teacher in the Aldine Independent School District in Houston.
Andrews has taught English at an alternative school for four years and was arrested at the school early Friday, said district spokeswoman Leticia Fehling. He will be reassigned to duties outside the classroom until the criminal investigation is over, she said.
A Harris County Jail spokesman said Andrews had not been processed yet so no lawyer's name was listed.
The eight people arrested Friday -- after a 17-month investigation -- were ringleaders, involved in some of the more "egregious" fights or were also involved in drug activity, Smith said.
Smith said most of the dogs were pit bull terriers or mutts that were part pit bulls. They were bred specifically for dog fighting by several owners. Many of the 168 dogs seized in three counties on Friday were injured.
Block said veterinarians were examining the dogs and that a judge would decide their fate.
Authorities said they have not completely shut down the operation because they're still searching for other suspects, but Smith called Friday's arrests a "death blow" to the ring.
Block said authorities called it one of the nation's largest dogfighting rings based on the number of people involved, the number of spectators and the value of the bets placed.
The seven other men arrested Friday were being held in the Harris County Jail.
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