What to Know
- Ten people were arrested and 89 dogs rescued in connection to an alleged interstate dogfighting ring.
- This was possibly the largest bust of its kind in New York history, Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini announced Monday.
- Acting Suffolk County Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron described the dogfighting ring as "one of the most disturbing cases I have ever seen in Suffolk County.”
Ten people were arrested and 89 dogs rescued in connection to an alleged interstate dogfighting ring -- possibly the largest bust of its kind in New York history, Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy Sini announced Monday.
The alleged dogfighting ring operated across Long Island, in New York City, and in several other states, Sini said. The fights were alleged to have occurred in homes on Long Island, in places like Mastic and Uniondale.
Officials said that the pitbulls rescued were bred for one purpose only: to fight and kill. Their lives were full of cruelty and they lived in wretched conditions, officials said, adding that the animals were killed if they were too injured or don’t fight well.
Though the dogs were subjected to unimaginable cruelty, those who participated in the ring didn't seem to mind since, according to officials, one person made a $175,000 bet on one fight. Prosecutors said that when the dogs were determined to be ready to fight, a "broker" would organize match-ups based on factors such as the dogs' weight and sex. The fights at times last several hours, ending in serious injuries or death for the dogs involved.
"Many of us have dogs as pets in our homes and we love them as another family member," Sini said. "This case is about how a criminal network bred dogs, tortured them, and put them in serious harm's way just to make a buck."
The individuals who bred and own these dogs allegedly refused to bring the animals to veterinarians in an attempt to not bring attention to the fighting ring. Instead, a man -- who was part of the ring -- called the “doctor” would often operate and perform unlicensed medical treatment on the dogs. That person would also kill severely injured dogs, or ones that had underperformed.
The ringleaders are accused of setting dogs up in practice fights, known as "rolls," when the canines were as young as about 6 months old, according to prosecutors. Those involved would also sell puppies descended from dogs who were successful in past fights and were considered to have strong "bloodlines."
Search warrants were executed in nine locations throughout Suffolk County, as well as three in Nassau County and one in Brooklyn between July 31 and Aug. 1. The dogs were found in basements, garages and sheds, some without food and water. Many had visible scarring and broken teeth, and exhibited fearful behavior.
Some of the discoveries made during the searches sounded like they were from a horror movie: veterinary surgical supplies such as a skin stapler, "rape stands" used to immobilize female dogs during breeding, plugging cords used to electrocute canines, "break sticks" used to separate dogs by their mouths during a fight, steroids, treadmills, spring poles and more.
Acting Suffolk County Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron described the dogfighting ring as "one of the most disturbing cases I have ever seen in Suffolk County.”
Those who face charges include William Ashton and Darrel Madison, of Mastic; Jontae Barker and Jerome Chapman, of Bay Shore; Edward Hodge, of Uniondale; Jeffrey Spencer, of Wyandach; Paul Whelan, of Shirley; Timothy Eury, of Hempstead; Charles Macwhinnie, of Hampton Bays; and Joseph Owens, of Amityville.
Madison faces first-degree possession of a controlled substance, which could result in up to 20 years in prison. The others could face up to four years in prison and a $25,000 fine for the animal fighting charges.
Robert Macedonio represents Owens, who is accused of training the pitbulls to fight, and said it's a mistake.
"Mr. Owens maintains his innocence, he's not involved in this dogfighting ring whatsoever," Macedonio said. "The that was seized was a pet visiting from out of state."
Eight of the 10 defendants have have been arraigned, with all but one released on their own recognizance.
Sini also announced Monday that his office is empaneling a Special Grand Jury to investigate crimes against animals and to make legislative recommendations to combat animal cruelty.
The 89 pitbulls rescued — 81 in New York, eight in Connecticut — are all being cared for by the ASPCA.