SAN ANTONIO -

It's a growing problem in South Texas.

"We see signs of it from time to time here in San Antonio and we like to try to take aggressive action to investigate it, " said Audra Houghton, animal cruelty specialist with the City of San Antonio's Animal Care Services (ACS).

Dog-fighting and cockfighting has become a big enough issue that ACS, along with the Texas Humane Society, held a seminar at the San Antonio Police Academy to teach law enforcement on how to recognize animal fighting rings.

"They're trained on how to protect people. We're trained on how to protect animals. So we have to meet in the middle and work together to work those cases," said Houghton.

How concerned is law enforcement about this problem?

The classroom was full Friday. More than 60 officers from all over the region attended, and they had to turn dozens more officers away from this training session.

"I think the officers are starting to see and understand the connection between other crimes and animal-fighting," said Houghton. "(Along with the fighting,) you see gang activity. You see drug activity."

The hope is that these cases can be handled with a higher degree of success.

"There is a huge interest in it now, and I believe that with more knowledge, there will be more thorough investigations," said Det. Teresa Christensen, with the Bexar County Sheriff's Office. "Just like with anything else, with more education and more experience dealing with these, you can build stronger cases."

The hope is that enforcement success will deter more from running the rings.

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