Authorities said they hit “the biggest dog fighting ring in Buffalo,” as they sought to put a dent into the growing underground problem of dog fighting in Western New York.
“This covert industry is violent, it’s large, and it’s local,” said Barbara Carr, executive director of the Erie County SPCA.
Buffalo police officers seized 20 dogs and shot one Friday and made five arrests during raids in Buffalo and on Grand Island. At least one more arrest is expected, according to Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda. The names of those arrested and their charges were not yet available.
The Buffalo Police Department led the investigation, with assistance from a newly formed Anti-Dog Fighting Task Force, and other area law enforcement SWAT squads. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPC), the SPCA Serving Erie County also aided in the bust.
The raids began early Friday morning at six locations on the East Side of Buffalo and the University District and one location on Grand Island Boulevard, police said.
At one of the locations, 269 Loring Ave., authorities raided a home, took away six dogs from crates in the backyard and shot one inside the house. Investigators said some of the dogs were scarred from dog fights.
Police conducted other Buffalo raids at these locations:
200 block of Wood Avenue
300 block of Humboldt Parkway
100 block of Hewitt Avenue
200 block of Forest Avenue and the
100 block of Ontario Street
Grand Island raid took place in the 3000 block of Grand Island Boulevard.
The surviving dogs will be “examined, medically treated and otherwise cared for by the SPCA Serving Erie County,” officials said.
WAS DOG SHOT AT WRONG ADDRESS?
The dog killed at 269 Loring was a 13-year-old Boxer, named Ace, claims a resident at the home, who said police had the wrong address, Newsdump.com reports.
The resident identified herself as Deidra Patterson, and said her 16-year-old niece has had severe medical issues for the last ten years and has been inseparably tied to Ace since she was a child. Besides the girl’s health problems, her parents are both deceased, and now so is her dog, Patterson said.
“That dog was her life,” Patterson said. “He was a family pet that kept a girl alive.”
“They got the wrong person,” Patterson said. She insisted there was no dog-fighting operation on Loring.
Authorities, however, describe houses like the one on Loring and the others they raided as dens of crime and violence.
“It’s particularly disturbing when you look at how the animals are abused, how they’re chained and drugged,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown, It’s why officials reconvened the Anti-Dog Fighting Task Force late last month.
The Mayor added, “It’s incredibly disturbing and, in some contexts, very frightening because people live in these areas where this is occurring, “This is why we moved so swiftly and took it so seriously,”
RAID LINKED TO THEFT OF PIT BULL, GINJA, FROM ANIMAL SHELTER
One police official involved in the raids called the dog fighting problem “very large in Buffalo.”
He said the investigation that led to Friday’s arrests began after a young pit bull, Ginja, was stolen from the city’s animal shelter on Oak Street.
Ginja was initially seized in a December raid at an Erb Street address that resulted in numerous animal-abuse charges levied against a suspended Buffalo police cellblock attendant. The dog was later stolen from the shelter.
Experts from the New York City-based ASPCA reported many of the dogs seized Friday “exhibited scars and wounds consistent with fighting, and some appeared to be emaciated and in poor health.”
“Dog fighting is a national epidemic, and we are grateful for local authorities in actively pursuing this case and seeking justice for these innocent victims who were forced to live in deplorable conditions and subjected to horrific abuse,” said Tim Rickey, the ASPCA’s vice president of field investigations and response.
Besides the dogs, paraphernalia associated with dog fighting was also seized in the raids, Newsday reported.
Derenda said it is likely the officers involved killed the dog out of necessity for their well-being. “If the dog was shot on entry, it was because the dog attacked,” he said. “The officers have to protect themselves.”