SURRY, Va. -- A property owned by Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick was used as the "main staging area for housing and training the pit bulls involved" in an alleged dogfighting operation, according to court documents.
The papers, filed by federal authorities, give details for the first time about what authorities contend was a long-running dogfighting venture. Vick is not named in the documents.
Yesterday, federal agents searched the property for a second time, using a backhoe to dig in an area about 10 feet by 20 feet. They finished their work at about 4:30 p.m. and declined to answer reporters' questions as they left.
The documents filed Monday in US District Court in Richmond and obtained yesterday by the Associated Press contain the address of the Vick property that has been at the center of the investigation.
According to the documents, dogfights have been sponsored by "Bad Newz Kennels" at the property since at least 2002. For the events, participants and dogs traveled from South Carolina, North Carolina, Maryland, New York, Texas, and other states.
Members of the venture also knowingly transported, delivered, and received dogs for animal fighting, the documents state.
Fifty-four pit bulls were recovered from the property during searches in April, along with a "rape stand" used to hold dogs in place for mating; an electric treadmill modified for dogs; and a bloodied piece of carpeting, the documents said.
Fights would end when one dog died or with the surrender of the losing dog, which was sometimes put to death by drowning, strangulation, hanging, gunshot, electrocution, or some other method, according to the documents.
During a June search of the property, investigators uncovered the graves of seven pit bulls that were killed by members of "Bad Newz Kennels" following sessions to test whether the dogs would be good fighters, the documents said.
On Vick's website, he lists his birthplace as Newport News, Va., "a.k.a. BadNews."
Yesterday, federal agents used shovels and heavy equipment to search the Vick property, where an informant told authorities as many as 30 dogs could be buried.
A backhoe-front loader was brought in and used to excavate a cleared area on the property. The material found to be of interest was transferred into numerous large, ice-filled coolers and loaded into a rental truck, which left the property.
Located in southeast Virginia, Vick's expansive property has a metal gate at the entrance and a white plastic fence around the perimeter. The fence and a large two-story building painted black behind the home obscured the work of investigators yesterday.
More than 15 vehicles were on the property, including the rental truck and at least one Virginia State Police evidence collection truck.
Corinne Geller, a spokeswoman for the Virginia State Police, said state authorities were working with federal investigators in an "assistance capacity."
Vick has said he rarely visited the property. No charges have been filed.
Vick initially said he had no idea the property might have been used in a criminal enterprise and blamed family members for taking advantage of his generosity. He also put the house up for sale and reportedly sold it quickly, although there is no record that the sale has closed. Vick has since declined to talk about the investigation.