WYANDANCH, N.Y. (AP) — Three men have been arrested on animal cruelty and dogfighting charges following raids on eastern Long Island that led to the rescue of 36 pit bulls ranging in age from one week to seven years, law enforcement officials announced Thursday.

Three of the dogs later had to be euthanized. The others are in the care of the ASPCA, said state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

He and Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said the dogfighting ring had been operating in Wyandanch and other Suffolk County locations since at least March.

"Dogfighting is an obscenely vicious and cruel form of animal abuse that tortures animals and endangers the safety of the public. It's barbaric, despicable, and illegal," Schneiderman said in a statement.

Three Wyandanch men were arraigned on several felony charges. They were identified as Richard Davis, 34; Martin Newkirk, 49; and Taikeem Wheeler, 26.

Wheeler and Newkirk both pleaded not guilty. They were represented by attorneys from Legal Aid, which has a policy of not commenting on pending cases. Davis was still awaiting arraignment; the name of his attorney was not immediately available.

Prosecutors said the men each operated so-called kennels that actually served as a staging ground for the dogfighting ring.

They said all 36 of the dogs were found virtually imprisoned in deplorable conditions, often tethered to heavy chains. There was no visible food or drinkable water, and the animals had injuries consistent with earlier fights.

The majority of the pit bulls were found with bite wounds that left scars and none appear to have been treated by a veterinarian, authorities said. They added that dogfighting paraphernalia also was seized.

If convicted the suspects face up to four years in prison and fines of $25,000.