Humane officers on Saturday arrested an unidentified individual on dog fighting charges and rescued five pit bulls at a home owned by a convicted animal abuser.
Pennsylvania SPCA officers arrived at a home on the 300 block of Van Kirk Street Saturday in the Lawndale section to investigate a suspected dog fighting operation.
“We’ve had this place on our radar for quite some time,” George Bengal, director of law rnforcement for the Pennsylvania SPCA told NBC 10. “Today we obtained enough probable cause to get a search warrant and make entry into the property.”
When officers arrived at the 300 block of Van Kirk St. in the Lawndale section they say they found five dogs living in “unsanitary conditions.” Bengal told the TV station some of the dogs were emaciated. They also found a fighting ring, treadmills and dog fighting paraphernalia, according to investigators.
NBC said the owner of the property is Antoine Talley, who was convicted of animal abuse in connection with a dog fighting ring in 2000, court records show.
“He’s looking at felony charges if he’s convicted," said Bengal. "He could possibly wind up doing jail time for this.”
Ralph Pratt, the suspect’s neighbor, told NBC the dog-fighting operation had been going on for two years, normally in the early morning hours, waking up residents who lived nearby.
“Every neighbor within 100 feet would be hollering out their windows,” said Pratt. “I would come out at night and other neighbors would come out and see each other and just throw our hands up in the air. We felt so bad for the animals.”
Pratt claims officials took the dogs from the suspect a year ago but that he used new dogs shortly after.
“Three months later, because they did not destroy the kennel he has them in, he just repopulated,” said Pratt. “In West Philadelphia, where he lived before, he was kicked out of the neighborhood for the same thing. Then he came up here and set up. This is a habitual dog trainer and breeder for the dog fights.”
Some animal welfare advocates wonder why the latest raid took so long. "It creates a lot of questions," said Tom Hickey, a member of the Dog Law Advisory Board.
The raid also underscores the need for passage of a bill that allows law enforcement to investigate and charge individuals in dog fighting cases based on the presence of dog fighting paraphernalia alone - that is heavy chains, exercise equipment and so-called "rape stands" for dog breeding.
Too often, dog fighters escape charges by hiding dogs, the bill's sponsor Rep. Todd Stephens (R., Montgomery.)
The bust comes during Pit Bull Awareness Month, as declared by Gov. Corbett.