Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Dogfighting operation found in Seffner

SEFFNER — It started with an anonymous call: Follow a sandy trail through a remote acreage to find a clandestine and illegal operation.

Investigators followed that trail. And what they found astounded them.

A man who lives on the property acknowledged running illegal dogfights for 20 years, authorities said. And he said that more than 100 dogs had been buried there over the years.

He said investigators were standing in a dog cemetery, authorities said.

Vannie Franklin, 55, of 6846 Stark Road, was arrested Tuesday on felony charges of animal cruelty, baiting animals and owning property for animal fighting. He was being held in the Hillsborough County Jail on $57,500 bail.

Also arrested on the property was Russell Franklin, 41, of Thonotosassa on felony charges of animal cruelty, baiting animals and owning property for animal fighting. He was being held on $14,000 bail.

Hillsborough County officials said they found seven wounded and chained pit bulls on Vannie Franklin's property — along with a skull, headless body and various other bones of dogs.

"He openly admitted that he had been fighting dogs and burying dogs for a long period of time," said Marti Ryan, the spokeswoman for Hillsborough County Animal Services.

One of the dogs they found, a female named China, was bound with a 27-pound chain, Ryan said. Investigators dubbed another dog "Rudolph" because of a bleeding wound on his nose.

The seven dogs are in county custody and were receiving medical treatment, Ryan said.

Investigators said that, in all, they found more than 80 pounds of dog chains on the property.

The area in Seffner was so heavily wooded it was difficult for investigators to drive to, Ryan said.

"It's been going on for a long time, and no one would have known," she said.

While they were searching the property, investigators said they also found cocaine, marijuana and guns.

Vannie Franklin has been arrested several times over the last 20 years, records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show. Charges of felony marijuana production, sexual assault and kidnapping were dismissed, records show. He was convicted of a charge of carrying a concealed weapon, the records show.

Ryan said the dogfighting operation is certainly one of the most unusual uncovered in Hillsborough, given the specificity of the anonymous tip and Franklin's seemingly unapologetic admission.

"That to me is shocking, more shocking than just the dogs we found," Ryan said.

Dogfighting operation found in Seffner 11/27/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 28, 2012 12:13am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs journal: Kicker Nick Folk has up and downs against Jaguars


    JACKSONVILLE — If the Bucs had hoped for a drama-free night in their kicking game, they'll have to wait another week.

    Bucs kicker Nick Folk celebrates one of his two made field goals against the Jaguars, but he also misses a field goal and has an extra point blocked.
  2. Late night update: Second wave follows Tropical Storm Harvey


    UPDATE: At 11 p.m. the National Hurricane Center said a hurricane hunter plane had determined that Tropical Storm Harvey had formed with sustained winds of 40 mph.

    Three tropical waves are expected to strengthen as they move across the Atlantic Ocean. [Courtesy of the National Hurricane Center]
  3. Stealth anti-Jack Latvala group tied to Adam Putnam campaign


    Politico reports:

     A longtime political consultant for Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam is behind a website calling one of his rivals in the race, state Sen. Jack Latvala, a “liberal.”

  4. Council gives in to pension dispute with St. Pete firefighters

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The City Council was forced to consider its first labor dispute in years Thursday when it gave the firefighters union most of the pension enhancements it has long asked for.

    The firefighters’ union won a pension victory at Thursday’s City Council meeting. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES]
  5. Bucs top Jaguars behind strong first half



    There is a reason why the air in Tampa Bay is filled with playoff talk. If Thursday night's 12-8 Bucs preseason win over the Jaguars is any indication, it's also going to be filled with footballs thrown by quarterback Jameis Winston.

    Doug Martin gets the Bucs’ only touchdown  on a 2-yard run, squeaking past linebacker Telvin Smith in the first quarter. He has five carries for 30 yards.