SEAFORD — Over the last year, two cases of alleged dogfighting, a felony that can bring up to five years in prison, have been netted in Delaware.
The latest came Jan. 8 in Seaford, involving four Maryland men and another from Delaware, according to Delaware State Police. In February 2022, two people were arrested on dogfighting-related charges.
There were 14 animals involved in the recent case, while 17 were seized in the other, police said.
The defendants in last year’s incident were both charged with one count of owning, possessing, keeping or using an animal for the purpose of fighting, plus cruelty or neglect to animals. Both were also charged with 17 counts of failing to obtain an individual dog license for any dog 6 months or older.
The Attorney General’s Office dismissed all charges against one defendant, while the other suspect’s remain active, according to the Department of Health and Social Services, which oversees the Office of Animal Welfare.
Now, the five men in the Seaford case have all been charged with owning, possessing, keeping or using an animal for the purpose of fighting; being present at a building/shed/room/yard for animal fighting; cruelty or unnecessarily killing or injuring any animal; and resisting arrest.
Citing the ongoing investigation there, the state police and the Office of Animal Welfare have said little since a joint news release issued Wednesday.
That statement said troopers were called to a residence in the 26000 block of Lonesome Road, after receiving a report of suspicious activity. They arrived to find multiple people actively engaged in dogfighting.
After their arrests, the men, ranging in age from 35 to 46, were committed to Sussex Correctional Institution, Georgetown, each on $18,000 secured bond, police said.
Of the 14 dogs seized last weekend, 13 are alive and being held at Brandywine Valley Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals locations in New Castle and Georgetown. Chief marketing officer Linda Torelli said Friday that one perished soon after the seizure.
She described the condition of the rest as “improving” and said the injuries include a broken leg and wounds to the dogs’ necks, legs and faces.
“The dogs are doing really well,” she added. “It’s amazing how resilient they are. Some came in a bit shy, but most are affectionate and seeking attention.”
The animals were mostly of the large mixed-breed variety, and Ms. Torelli said DNA tests could provide more specific identification.
The next step is preparing the dogs for potential adoption, which could come as early as Thursday for some, she said.
“Getting them ready to find homes is a three-part process,” she said. “First, we need to meet their medical needs. Then, it’s getting to know them and making sure they’re adjusted. Finally, there’s any rehabilitation work that might be needed, with our behavioral specialists involved, if called upon.”
Ms. Torelli believes there’s ample public interest in homing the dogs.
“There are absolutely people who want dogs who have been through this sort of trauma,” she said. “These dogs can still live normal, viable lives.”
Information on adoption is available here.
Anyone who suspects instances of animal abuse should contact the Office of Animal Welfare’s Delaware Animal Services section. It can be reached at 302-255-4646 or here.
John Parna of Camden’s First State Animal Center and SPCA, while not commenting specifically on any case, offered appreciation to the officers who responded in Seaford.
“Thank goodness there is oversight, and I commend the Office of Animal Welfare and Delaware State Police for bringing people who have no respect for an animal to justice,” he said. “(Dogfighting is) not prevalent, but apparently, there are watchful eyes out there, and that’s fortunate.”
In mid-November 2022, according to einpresswire.com, members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced legislation to strengthen laws against animal-fighting offenders. Both Democrats and Republicans sponsored the proposal.
Federal law against animal fighting has been strengthened by Congress five times since 2002, with a free-standing bill passed in 2007 and through Farm Bill amendments in 2002, 2008, 2014 and 2018.
“Man’s best friend has absolutely no place in a fighting ring. We must end this brutal, barbaric practice for good and ensure that all animals are treated with respect and dignity,” Rep. Earl L. “Buddy” Carter, R-Ga., said in November.