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A $7,000 reward has been offered for the return of Ginja, one of four malnourished dogs seized in December by police investigating a dogfighting ring on Erb Street.

Ginja had been reported missing in early January from the Buffalo Animal Shelter on North Oak Street, according to animal rights attorney Matt Albert.

Shannon Richardson, a now-suspended Buffalo police cell-block attendant, was identified by authorities as the owner of Ginja – a young pit bull – and three other dogs reportedly involved in a fighting ring.

“The dogs were housed at the Buffalo Animal Shelter subsequent to the arrest of Richardson,” said Albert. “Numerous volunteers at the shelter maintain Richardson was in the shelter in January about one month after his arrest taking photos of Ginja.

“One week later, two men were observed acting in a suspicious manner checking names and locations of dogs being housed in the shelter,” Albert said. “Ginja was reported missing shortly after that.”

Richardson, 34, was charged with six violations of the Agriculture and Markets Law, including failure to provide proper sustenance for the animals and leaving them without appropriate shelter.

Guardians of Rescue, an animal rescue group based in New York City, contributed $5,000 to the reward fund. The initial $2,000 was raised through an online fundraising website youcaring.com, an effort that was spearheaded by Albert and local animal-rights proponents.

“The dog fighters are motivated in this cruel sport in part by money, so it is our intention to appeal to them on their level,” said Robert Misseri, president of Guardians of Rescue. “It is our hope that someone with connections to this ring will be enticed to receive the reward.

“To me, $7,000 is a lot of money,” said Gina Browning, SPCA public relations director. “If this is somebody in possession and utilizing a $10,000 or $15,000 fighting dog, that changes the value of the $7,000.”

In December 2012, the animal-rights organization PETA offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person responsible for abandoning Metro, a pit bull puppy named for the Rural/Metro ambulance crew that found her outside a veterinarian’s office.

It is not unusual for a national animal-rights organization to fund rewards for information leading to the arrest of an individual responsible for the abuse of an animal, said Misseri.

“We fear she was stolen from the shelter to be returned to the fighting arena to continue earning money,” Misseri said. “This would surely result in more horrific injuries and her ultimate death.”

Sources at the shelter familiar with Ginja described numerous facial scars consistent with those suffered by dogs involved in fights. In addition, the scars indicated Ginja suffered the injuries on several occasions.

“Ginja had found love at the shelter, and it’s depressing knowing she is probably having to fight for her life again,” said Albert.

Albert, a former assistant district attorney in the Beth Hoskins horse abuse case, was dismissed from his position amid allegations of prosecutorial misconduct for dating an SPCA investigator. The motion to dismiss the Hoskins case for prosecutorial misconduct was subsequently denied.

The dognapping of Ginja from the animal shelter reportedly occurred on a weekend in early January, according to Albert.

Officials from the Buffalo Animal Shelter could not be reached to comment Monday. Neither could Michael DeGeorge, Buffalo police spokesman.

Stealing a dog from an animal shelter in general is a daunting act complicated by today’s sophisticated surveillance security equipment, Browning said.

“It’s not easy to do,” she added.

email: jkwiatkowski@buffnews.com