Statement on South Philly Dog Fighting Case

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PHILADELPHIA (April 23, 2018) — Dog fighting is an extremely serious crime and has no place in our city.  The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office takes incidents of dog fighting and all kinds of animal cruelty very seriously.

Below is a summary of recent activity in a case involving dog fighting in South Philadelphia.

On Friday, April 20th, eight (8) defendants agreed to plead guilty to the charge of neglect of animals in connection to a March 10 raid of a warehouse/garage where dog fighting was occurring. A total of 14 people were arrested as a result of the raid.

The eight (8) defendants who agreed to the plea bargain either had very minor criminal records or no prior record at all. The evidence available against those eight (8) people did nothing to tie them to organizing the event, ownership of the building, or supplying the abused dogs to the fight.

The remaining six (6) defendants have not been offered any plea bargain and remain charged with dog fighting, which is a third-degree felony in Pennsylvania.

Why the different approach for those individuals? The defendants who are charged with a felony either have a substantial criminal record, prior dog fighting offenses, or the evidence in the case shows that they were responsible for organizing this dog fight. Those defendants were given no plea offer at all- they will face a preliminary hearing on June 5th for felony dog fighting.

It should also be noted that securing earlier guilty pleas for some defendants allowed the Judge assigned to the case to sign an order relinquishing the dogs to the custody of the SPCA where they can be rehabilitated and adopted. Otherwise, the dogs seized as part of this raid might have been forced to stay in a shelter for months or even years until the owners are convicted and forced to relinquish custody. That was a major positive outcome as a result of these early pleas.

We should also be clear that a summary conviction for neglect of animals is not the equivalent of a traffic ticket—it is a criminal conviction that will be part of the record of each offender. It does carry a fine instead of jail time, but can only be expunged after 5 years without any other criminal convictions. It certainly would appear on any background check. It could prevent them from adopting a pet or even gaining employment in any capacity involving animals. The plea bargain also required each defendant to pay restitution to the SPCA for the care of the abused dogs.

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office will continue to aggressively prosecute these cases with the goal of securing the best possible outcome. In this case, we felt pursuing charges in this manner was the best approach.

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