MANILA - More than 200 pitbulls rescued from an illegal online dog-fighting operation in the Philippines were saved from a mass cull after two animal shelters agreed to care for them, rescuers said Thursday.
Thirty-three dogs weakened by wounds, dehydration and poor nutrition or showing overly aggressive behaviour had already been put down while four other animals died since their rescue, the Philippine Animal Welfare Society said.
On Wednesday 225 dogs were turned over to shelters that have pledged to try to nurse them back to health and ensure they do not attack people if they are put up for adoption, its executive director Anna Cabrera said.
"These two shelters have taken on the task of rehabilitating them," Cabrera told AFP.
Police raided two farms south of Manila on March 30 and arrested 12 people, including eight South Koreans accused of running illegal dog fights that were streamed live on the Internet to spectators who placed bets.
Cabrera's group said the animals had been chained and kept in shabby conditions.
Dog fighting has no major following in the Philippines, and police said the gamblers were based in South Korea.
The suspects face two years in prison if convicted of animal cruelty.
Police turned over the rescued dogs to Cabrera's group, which said it had faced the prospect of having to cull them because the shelter was already full.
"They are actually dying one by one," Cabrera said.
"It would have been cruel to have just let them die one by one under those conditions."
One of the two groups that agreed to adopt the pitbulls had taken 68 dogs of the same breed that were rescued by police from an apparently related South Korean-led online dog-fighting gang in December, Cabrera said.
Six of the South Koreans arrested on Friday are already facing animal cruelty charges from the December raid but were free on bail, police said.
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