Two people were charged after police making a drug bust in Paterson, New Jersey, found bloodstained walls and starving Pit Bulls. Their target was drugs, but what police found was an unexpected horror of animal cruelty that included dead fighting dogs stuffed into garbage bags, starving puppies crammed into crates, and blood-splashed walls, reports North Jersey News.
One of the 21 Pit Bulls found in the basement of the Paterson house is shown cowering in a poignant photo taken by North Jersey News photographer Viorel Florescu. The photo captures the pathos of lifelong confinement in a cold concrete pen and the dog’s terror of humans who have hurt it and left it to suffer. It also shows the tentative hope that it will not be harmed again.
Paterson police arrested Caurie Swinger, 21, and Ashley Bryant, 32, on animal cruelty and drug possession charges, police Capt. Troy Oswald said. on Friday afternoon.
In addition to the dogs, police found a handgun and an estimated $12,000 worth of crack cocaine and marijuana during the raid that began at 1 p.m.
Captain Oswald said they found evidence that a large dog-fighting ring was being run out of a city home at 226 Van Blarcom St., where Pit Bulls were being trained to fight. Most of the dogs were less than a year old.
Oswald said detectives found one dog in a first-floor room. Four others were chained outside, and 16 were crammed into crates stacked in the basement. Police found a large cache of drugs, for which the search had first been conducted.
The scarred bodies of four dead dogs also were found in the basement, stuffed into four plastic bags “like yesterday’s garbage,” said John DeCando, Paterson Animal Control officer, “It was horrible. This is one of the largest dog-fighting rings I’ve seen.”
There were also four trash cans on their sides in the back yard that appeared to have been used to house dogs. Three of them were partially covered with wooden boards and the other had a hole cut into its cover.
Neighbors said the man who lived at the house owned two or three dogs that they would see outside, but that they didn’t know anything about a dog-fighting ring or any other dogs at the home.
One man, who asked not to be identified, said that the three dogs he saw appeared to be malnourished and were housed in trash cans in the back yard. “You could hear them crying at night,” he said.
Police said many of the Pit Bulls showed signs of starvation.
DeCando told North Jersey News reporters that steroids used for fighting dogs also were found in the home, along with needles, electronic collars to shock the dogs, and bloodstained sticks used to pry open their jaws.
He said that the three surviving adult dogs had severe injuries from fighting and were taken to a veterinarian for treatment. The snout of one dog appeared deformed from having been bitten.
Most of the dogs were thin and scared, but quickly warmed up to detectives who offered them food, Oswald said.
DeCando said that dog fights apparently took place in a bedroom upstairs on the first floor, where the blood-splattered walls were found.
The dogs appear to have been trained at the home but may have also been fighting elsewhere, police believe.
Several neighbors told North Jersey News that large groups of people sometimes came and went from the blue wood-framed house, located on a narrow street that is one block long. One neighbor stated that was not unusual for the neighborhood.
Another neighbor, who said as many as a dozen people at a time crammed into the house, added that it seemed odd because the street is not readily accessible and is almost hidden from surrounding neighborhoods.
A woman who showed up at the home Friday evening said her daughter is its owner. She said, “I don’t know anything about that” when she was asked about dog fighting. She said neither she nor her daughter live at the home and that she wanted to check on the property and the dogs that live there. She didn’t respond when she was told all the dogs had been taken away and declined to be interviewed further.
The home is owned by a woman named Constance Swinger, according to tax records. Neighbors said the owner was rarely at the house, but that a man they believe to be her son lives there.
DeCando said that the pups are receiving care and attention at the Paterson animal shelter and the adult dogs were expected to recover. “Each dog is adoptable; not one will be put to sleep,” DeCando said. “They’re friendly. They just got hooked up with bad people.”