89 dogs rescued in New York State’s largest dogfighting bust

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Suffolk County District Attorney Timothy D. Sini was joined today by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (“ASPCA”), New York State Police, Suffolk County Police Department, New York City Police Department (“NYPD”), Nassau County District Attorney’s Office, Nassau County Police Department, and the Nassau County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to announce the arrest of 10 individuals and the rescue of 89 dogs in connection with an alleged dogfighting ring operating across Long Island, in New York City and in several other states.

“We will not tolerate these types of crimes – crimes that injure and, in many cases, result in the death of vulnerable animals,” District Attorney Sini said. “Many of us have dogs as pets in our homes and we love them as another family member. 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. Through our investigation, we were able to infiltrate this dogfighting enterprise and put it out of business by arresting 10 individuals responsible for perpetuating this horrifying cycle of violence against animals, and by rescuing 89 dogs that were trapped in this life of torture and brutality. These arrests represent a significant blow to dogfighting, certainly here on Long Island and we believe it will have impacts throughout the Northeast.”

“As an animal lover, I have to say, this is one of the most disturbing cases I’ve seen in my 36 years with our department,” said Suffolk County Acting Police Commissioner Stuart Cameron. “It also deeply disturbed our detectives assigned to the District Attorney’s Squad as they worked on this case over an extended period of time and dealt with the abject cruelty of these defendants toward these helpless animals. This was the largest and most brutal dogfighting rings this county has ever seen, but it is over now thanks to the work of our department, the DA’s Office, and several other agencies.”

“This brutal case involving dozens of victimized animals demonstrates that dogfighting persists in every corner of America, requiring that we remain diligent in our effort to eradicate animal fighting across the country,” said Elizabeth Brandler, Senior Counsel for ASPCA Legal Advocacy & Investigations. “We are grateful that the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and Suffolk County Police Department chose to work with us on this complex case and for their commitment to stopping these despicable crimes, rescuing the animals involved, and bringing the perpetrators to justice.”


“Dog fighting is a brutal and illegal activity, which results in the abuse and torture of innocent animals for entertainment and profit,” said New York State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen. “We will continue to work with our law enforcement and community partners to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who illegally abuse animals for any reason.”

“I commend the members of the Animal Cruelty Investigation Squad and our law enforcement partners for their work in this investigation which resulted in these arrests and the removal of more than 80 dogs from a dog fighting ring,” said NYPD Police Commissioner Dermot Shea. “The NYPD will continue to enforce the laws that protect animals and ensure those who abuse them are brought to justice.”

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“Our office was proud to participate in the dismantling of this alleged dog fighting ring with our partners in law enforcement and animal welfare,” said Acting Nassau County District Attorney Joyce A. Smith. “These animals were allegedly subjected to cruel and tortuous treatment to enhance their performance in the ring. NCDA is committed to seeking justice for these vulnerable animals, unable to advocate for themselves, and holding their abusers accountable.”

“Animal crimes are very serious and dog fighting is one of the most heinous,” said Gary Rogers, President of the Nassau County SPCA. “The Nassau County SPCA applauds the Suffolk County District Attorney and Suffolk County Police Department for spearheading this investigation.”

The Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and Suffolk County Police Department, in collaboration with local, state, federal and non-governmental agencies, began an investigation into alleged dogfighting occurring at residences across Long Island in early 2021. The investigation involved surveillance and intelligence obtained through social media, among other investigative tactics.

The investigation revealed evidence that the defendants were allegedly involved in the breeding, training and illegal fighting of pit bulls.

The defendants would allegedly begin setting dogs up in practice fights, known as “rolls,” when they were as young as approximately six months old. Through adulthood, the dogs were allegedly frequently subjected to inadequate living conditions and improper sustenance as well as rigorous training programs designed to increase their tenacity, agility, and bite strength.

When the dogs were determined to be ready to fight, a “broker” would orchestrate match-ups based on the dogs’ weight and sex, among other factors. Dogfighters looking to participate in a fight, also known as a “match,” would pay a buy-in fee known as a “forfeit” to have their dog entered into the fight, and the winning dogfighter would receive all of the proceeds. The defendants would also allegedly place bets on the outcomes of fights, which are violent events that can last several hours long and result in serious physical injuries or death for the participating dogs. The investigation revealed evidence that the defendants would allegedly engage in unlicensed medical treatment for injured dogs, as well as killing dogs that were either severely injured or had underperformed in fights.

The defendants also allegedly made money by selling puppies descended from dogs who were successful in past fights and were considered to have strong “bloodlines.”

Pursuant to the investigation, search warrants were executed by the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Suffolk County Police Department, ASPCA and other agencies at nine locations in Suffolk County, three locations in Nassau County and one location in Brooklyn on July 31 and Aug. 1.

The search warrants resulted in the recovery of various dogfighting paraphernalia, including veterinary surgical supplies, such as a skin stapler; “rape stands,” which are used to immobilize female dogs during breeding; plugging cords, which are used in the electrocution of dogs; steroids and other supplements used to enhance the dogs’ performance; “break sticks,” which are used to break dogs apart by their mouths when they are fighting; and equipment used to strengthen the dogs’ agility, tenacity and bite strength, including treadmills and spring poles.

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Law enforcement also rescued 81 dogs at the various locations in New York. Pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding between Suffolk County and the ASPCA, the dogs were relocated to an emergency shelter operated by the ASPCA, where they are receiving veterinary forensic exams and behavior evaluations, medical care, and behavioral enrichment and treatment. The ASPCA also assisted with operational planning, evidence collection, and legal assistance. Responders from St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J., and Brevard SPCA in Titusville, Fla., provided the ASPCA with support in this case.

The dogs were found in various locations in the residences, including basements, garages, and sheds, and some were without food and water. Many of the dogs displayed various medical conditions consistent with dogfighting, including scarring and broken teeth, and were exhibiting fearful behavior.

An additional eight dogs were rescued by law enforcement authorities in Connecticut in connection with the investigation.

District Attorney Sini also announced the Office’s empaneling of a Special Grand Jury to investigate this case, to develop strategies to more effectively protect animals, and to make legislative recommendations to combat animal cruelty.

“The Special Grand Jury will be considering recommendations we can make to strengthen the laws on animal cruelty and further protect animals from this kind of senseless abuse,” District Attorney Sini said. “We need to hold these bad actors accountable for their violent actions and these crimes need to be treated seriously under our law.”

The defendants are as follows:

William Ashton, a/k/a “Mr. Bill,” 80, of Mastic, is charged with two counts of Violation of the Prohibition of Animal Fighting, a felony, and Possessing Animal Fighting Paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

Jontae Barker, 32, of Bay Shore, is charged with Violation of the Prohibition of Animal Fighting, a felony; Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals (Failure to Provide Proper Sustenance), a class A misdemeanor; and three counts of Possessing Animal Fighting Paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

Edward Hodge, 74, of Uniondale, is charged with Violation of the Prohibition of Animal Fighting, a felony; Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals (Failure to Provide Proper Sustenance), a class A misdemeanor; Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree, a class A misdemeanor; and two counts of Possessing Animal Fighting Paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

Darrel Madison, 44, of Mastic, is charged with Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, a class A-I felony; two counts of Violation of the Prohibition of Animal Fighting, a felony; Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals (Failure to Provide Proper Sustenance), a class A misdemeanor; and three counts of Possessing Animal Fighting Paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor. During the execution of the search warrants, Madison was allegedly found in possession of more than half a kilogram of cocaine.

Jeffrey Spencer, 65, of Wyandanch, is charged with Violation of the Prohibition of Animal Fighting, a felony, and Possessing Animal Fighting Paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

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Paul Whelan, 57, of Shirley, is charged with two counts of Violation of the Prohibition of Animal Fighting, a felony; Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals (Failure to Provide Proper Sustenance), a class A misdemeanor; and two counts of Possessing Animal Fighting Paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

Jerome Chapman, 39, of Bay Shore, is charged with two counts of Violation of the Prohibition of Animal Fighting, a felony; Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals (Failure to Provide Proper Sustenance), a class A misdemeanor; and three counts of Possessing Animal Fighting Paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

Timothy Eury, 43, of Hempstead, is charged with Violation of the Prohibition of Animal Fighting, a felony; Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals (Failure to Provide Proper Sustenance), a class A misdemeanor; and Conspiracy in the Fifth Degree, a class A misdemeanor.

Charles Macwhinnie, 52, of Hampton Bays, is charged with Violation of the Prohibition of Animal Fighting, a felony, and two counts of Possessing Animal Fighting Paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

Joseph Owens, 49, of Amityville, is charged with Violation of the Prohibition of Animal Fighting, a felony; Overdriving, Torturing and Injuring Animals (Failure to Provide Proper Sustenance), a class A misdemeanor; and three counts of Possessing Animal Fighting Paraphernalia, a class B misdemeanor.

If convicted of the top count of Criminal Possession of a Controlled Substance in the First Degree, Madison faces a maximum sentence of up to 20 years in prison. If convicted of the top count of Violation of the Prohibition of Animal Fighting, the remaining defendants each face a maximum sentence of up to 4 years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, or both.

District Attorney Sini also thanks the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General, Connecticut State Police, Massachusetts State Police, Town of Brookhaven Animal Shelter, Town of Babylon Animal Shelter, Town of Islip Animal Shelter, Town of Hempstead Animal Shelter, and Town of Southampton Animal Shelter for their assistance with the investigation.

“We would like thank all of the participants in this operation including the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office and the Suffolk County Police Department for their interest and efforts in this investigation,” said Special Agent-in-Charge Bethanne M. Dinkins of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of the Inspector General. “Working collaboratively is essential to identifying, investigating, and prosecuting individuals involved in organized animal fighting ventures.  The Office of Inspector General is committed to working with all of our law enforcement and prosecutorial partners in these types of endeavors.”

“Animal cruelty of all types, including dogfighting, is a serious crime, and law enforcement agencies can have no tolerance for it,” said Colonel Christopher Mason, Superintendent of the Massachusetts State Police. “The Massachusetts State Police Special Services Section and our Detective Unit for Hampden County were more than happy to be able to assist our New York partners in dismantling this criminal organization, bringing its participants to justice, and rescuing dozens of dogs who hopefully have happier days ahead.”

This case is being prosecuted by Senior Investigative Counsel Christiana McSloy and Assistant District Attorney Laura Sarowitz, of the Enhanced Prosecution Bureau.