Investigators say two Rockland County men who staged dog fights at their home saw their training of the dogs and the fights as "just a hobby."
"They loved their dogs and they saw this a a legitimate hobby," said Rockland County Executive Assistant District Attorney Gary Lee Heavner about Ralph Cadet and Tyrell Francis, who have been indicted on charges of animal abuse and staging dog fights. "They were not embarrassed by this. They saw it as their pasttime."
In addition to staging dog fights at their 39 Greenridge Way, New Hempstead home, Heavner said Cadet and Francis had a training facility in their home so they could teach dogs to fight. Nine Pit Bull terriers were seized in a raid on the home, and the dogs were taken by the Hudson Valley Humane Society in Pomona for treatment and foster care.
The investigation of the dog fights was an offshoot of a narcotics investigation in which Cadet and Francis have already been indicted, according to Rockland District Attorney Thomas Zugibe.
Heavner said the drug investigation led to information about dog fights. The fighting was not an organized business, but Heavner said Cadet and Francis invited friends to their house for dog fight events and bets were placed on the fights.
"They did not see anything wrong with it," Heavner said.
The Pit Bulls were not used as part of a drug operation and were not used as guard dogs to threaten people, Heavner said. However, he noted the dogs were specifically trained to be aggressive and members of the immediate neighborhood were aware of the dogs and the fights.
"It gave them a certain amount of street credibility with having dogs like this," Heavner said.
Ann Marie Gaudio, president of the Hudson Valley Humane Society, clarified that only the HVHS personnel and HVHS Humane Law Enforcement Agents may comment on the temperment of the dogs as they are most familiar with the dogs since they've been rescued.
The dogs were cared for, but Heavner said the animals showed scars from fighting. Since being seized, the dogs have been under the care of the Hudson Valley Humane Society.
Currently, the humane society has five of these rescued dogs available for adoption—Peaches, Butterscotch, Guenther, Chloe and Sweet Mama.
"We took care of them and they need to find homes," said Gaudio, who has been with HVHS for 12 years and became a law enforcement agent in May 2011. "We're the only group that by charter can do humane law enforcement. This is the first time I've actually seen a case to come to fruition and be investigated to the point where we can press charges."
Heavner said the organization has been seeking foster homes for the dogs and has been seeking donations from the public to assist with the costs of medical care and feeding of the animals.
"They need to find people who are experienced with the handling and re-training of aggressive dogs," Heavner said.
Hudson Valley Humane Society, 200 Quaker Road, Pomona, NY 10970, 845-354-3124.
Check back with Patch later today for an article about the rescued dogs.