HELENA-WEST HELENA, Ark. (WREG) — Dog fighting in the Helena-West Helena community has led to a rise in pit bulls coming to the animal shelter severely injured or near death.

Reta Merritt is director of the Humane Society of the Delta. This is home to 400 dogs, 90% of them pit bulls. Many of them are horribly abused, even beaten with hammers.

“We get dogs here that have got gang member’s initials carved in their head, lit on fire, some things unspeakable,” Merritt said. “Some people can’t bear to look at it and some of us have looked at for so long we’re getting really tired.”

Merritt says often their owners want them back so they can use them again for fighting or as bait dogs.

“They’ll tell us, they’ll say, ‘I’m gonna get my dog back. I’ll get my dog back no matter what it takes.’ And they want these fighting dogs. They want them,” Merritt said.

The shelter is a non-profit, no-kill shelter depending on donations to stay opened.

Gloria Higginbotham says during the pandemic adoptions and donations have increased in the northeast U.S. but locally have not kept pace.

“I get about five hundred dollars locally, donated, once a month out of this community and thank you,” Higginbotham said. “You know who you are for doing that.”

The shelter averages a hundred new dogs a month needing care. Higginbotham hopes law enforcement will crack down on dog fighting rings which bring nothing but pain to these canines.

“I’m there for the dogs, and it’s not a ‘dog friendly’ community,” Higginbotham said. “I mean there’s some people that love their dogs, but on the whole, no it’s not.”