When law enforcement officials descended upon a house in Paterson, N.J., they fully expected to find a large cache of narcotics. When they saw bloodstained walls inside a first-floor bedroom, they realized they’d discovered something much worse.
Seeking the source of all that blood, officers searched the home. They found 18 pit bulls living in appalling conditions. In the basement, 15 young pit bulls were jammed inside too-small dog crates. Three adult dogs lived chained in the backyard, trash cans tipped on their sides serving as their only shelter.
Most heartbreaking of all, police found the scar-ridden bodies of four dead dogs stuffed into trash bags and left in the basement.
Suddenly, it became clear to investigators. The dogs, emaciated and injured, were savagely being trained in that house to fight. Authorities realized they’d uncovered a large and previously unknown dog-fighting operation.
A further search of the house uncovered steroids used to amp up fighting dogs, needles, electronic shock collars and blood-covered sticks apparently used to pry open the dog’s jaws. In addition to all this horror, authorities found and seized a handgun and $12,000 in crack cocaine and marijuana.
Secret Cruelty in a New Jersey House
Most of the dogs recovered are less than a year old. All were thin and in terrible shape. According to one report, one dog was so severely affected by mange that it couldn’t walk. Others had been inside cages too small for them for so long, they too had trouble moving. One adult dog’s snout was so badly mauled it appeared deformed. Rescuers transported three of the dogs directly to a veterinarian for emergency treatment.
“I don’t know what they thought they were doing,” Stephanie Pearl, president of Second Chance Pet Adoption League, told North Jersey News. She said the dogs “were so skinny, it doesn’t look like they could fight anything.”
Dead Dogs in Plastic Bags “Like Yesterday‘s Garbage”
Paterson’s animal control officer, John DeCando, has been on the job for 37 years. Despite all that experience, even he was shocked by what was going on.
“We found four dead dogs in a garbage bag, thrown away like yesterday’s garbage,” DeCando told North Jersey News. ”It was horrible. This is one of the largest dog fighting rings I’ve seen.”
Neighbors questioned by police said they didn’t realize a dog fighting ring was operating right under their noses. They said they saw a few dogs at the residence, but not the 18 the police eventually found.
Sadly, though, neighbors admitted the dogs they saw in the yard were obviously malnourished. They said they could hear them “crying at night.” Why didn’t they report any of this to the police? Clearly, they should have. According to DeCando, however, “[P]eople are afraid to call” to report animal issues.
Suspect Faces 84 Counts of Animal Cruelty
The accused in this case, Caurie Swinger, 21, now faces 84 counts of animal cruelty in addition to drug and gun charges. Another man, Ashley Bryant, will not be charged with the animal crimes but is being charged with the narcotics and gun offenses.
Authorities charged Swinger on Apr. 24th with 18 counts of torturing and mutilating animals, four counts of knowingly killing animals, four counts of causing another person to kill an animal, two counts of running a dog-fighting operation, two counts of permitting animals to fight, and 18 counts of failing to provide food and water to animals.
He and Bryant are currently out on $50,000 bond.
For the Rescued Pitties, There‘s Good News, Too
Fortunately, the horrible people who tried to train vicious fighting dogs failed to get their evil job done. According to those who rescued the Paterson raid dogs, every one of the pit bulls will have a chance at a bright new life.
“Each dog is adoptable; not one will be put to sleep,” DeCando said. “They’re friendly. They just got hooked up with bad people.”
The dogs reportedly responded hesitantly but in a non-threatening manner to the officers who found them. A little food went a long way to make those frightened, cowering pups wag their tails.
“They just wanted some attention,” DeCando told North Jersey News. “[The defendant] didn’t have a chance to make them mean yet.”
Anyone who still believes a pit bull is “bred to be vicious” should take careful note of what happened here. Despite spending their first year or more of life horrifically abused, starved and trained for maximum aggression, all 18 of the Paterson raid dogs responded only with happiness when treated with kindness. Not one has snapped at or bitten anyone handling them.
Remember that dog who’d lost some of her snout? She “was one of the worst dogs we’ve seen, just the dog-bite wounds. She just smelled like a giant infection. But she was the friendliest of all of them,” Stephanie Pearl told North Jersey News. Pit bulls a dangerous breed? No.
Second Chance Pet Adoption League is working with other rescue groups to find help in getting these dogs rehabilitated and eventually adopted into new, loving homes.
“They’re all very sweet,” said Pearl. ”They definitely will all be adoptable. It’s just a matter of finding the right home for them.”
Want to rescue a loving dog and help him or her forget a terrifying, bloody past? There are 18 sweet natured pit bulls up in New Jersey who’d love to meet you.
Lead image shows Viola, another of the Paterson raid rescued pit bull pups. Photo credit for all images: Stephanie Pearl Facebook Page.