A Kensington man who had insisted he bred pit bulls as a hobby - despite evidence that investigators found last fall implicating him in dogfighting schemes - did an about-face this week and pleaded guilty to owning the animals for fighting.

Sidney Prosser, 37, was sentenced Tuesday to six to 23 months of work release and three years' probation for keeping 22 dogs for fighting purposes.

Common Pleas Judge Linda Carpenter also ordered that Prosser surrender his dogs to the Pennsylvania Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and that he pay the PSPCA $5,000 in restitution for housing them since animal-cruelty investigators removed them from Prosser's home on June 7.

Carpenter also forbade Prosser from owning more than one dog during his probation.

Authorities discovered Prosser's dogfighting operation in June after police went to his home on Willard Street near G looking for his girlfriend's son, who was wanted in an attempted-murder case. They didn't find him but discovered 22 pit bulls in the basement and alerted the PSPCA.

PSPCA investigators said most of the animals were emaciated and kept in filthy kennels that reeked of urine. Many bore open wounds and old scars, typical on dogs used in illegal dogfights. They also found dogfighting gear, including scales, medications, leashes, weighted collars and a break stick (an implement used to break a dog's biting grip on another dog).

Prosser admitted to authorities that he had bred the dogs, but told a Daily News reporter in October that he had done so "as a hobby." Their wounds, he contended, occurred when they escaped from their crates and fought each other.

The dogs remain in PSPCA care, undergoing medical and behavioral evaluations.

Prosser had faced up to seven years in prison for dogfighting. Still, PSPCA chief executive Howard Nelson applauded the sentence.

"Dogfighting is a heinous crime, and we are extremely pleased that Mr. Prosser is being held accountable for the cruelty he inflicted upon those dogs." *