A routine traffic stop of a cargo van in Buena Park, CA led to the rescue of a dozen pit bulls that were headed to Mexico for dog fighting, police reported.
Officers noticed the van had no front license plate and directed the driver to pull over about 10:30 a.m., Sgt. Bill Kohanek said.
"These characters we stopped have been all over the United States picking up dogs, and they happened to be in the wrong place just an hour and a half north of the border," Kohanek said. "It was kind of nice getting (the dogs) off the street. At least they're all safe now."
The dogs were turned over to the Southeast Area Animal Control Authority, which consulted with the Humane Society of the United States and traced many of the pit bulls through their implanted chips back to "notorious dog fighters," said SEAACA Capt. Aaron Reyes.
"Many of these dogs are owned -- and were being transported from -- notorious dog fighters, some with felony convictions," Reyes said.
The van's driver and passenger were not arrested, however, as authorities said it appears they work for a legitimate animal delivery service, Kohanek said.
The men had fans in the van and appeared to be caring for the dogs as best they could, Reyes said. But when pulled over, the officers grew suspicious as the driver rolled down his window and they got a whiff of a "god-awful smell," Reyes added.
The men made stops in Alabama, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Virginia, New Jersey, Kansas City, Seattle and Long Beach to pick up the dogs, Reyes said.
"We have some work to do to piece this puzzle together, and we should have more information in a few days," Reyes said.
The puppies range in age from puppies to 3 years old, and "some of these dogs are valued at $20,000," Kohanek said.