Buffalo police officers seized 20 dogs and shot one Friday and also made about a half-dozen arrests during raids in Buffalo and on Grand Island.
Authorities said they hit “the biggest dogfighting ring in Buffalo.”
The Buffalo Police Department led the roundup, with assistance from a newly formed Anti-Dogfighting Task Force, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the SPCA Serving Erie County and other area law enforcement SWAT squads.
The raids began early Friday morning at six locations on the city’s East Side and the University District and one location on Grand Island Boulevard, police said.
Authorities sought to put a dent into the growing underground problem of dogfighting in Western New York.
“This covert industry is violent, it’s large, and it’s local,” said Barbara Carr, executive director of the Erie County SPCA.
At one of the locations, 269 Loring Ave., authorities raided a home, took away six dogs and shot one inside the house.
Investigators said some of the dogs were scarred from dog fights.
The SPCA and police removed the half dozen dogs from the backyard in crates.
Police conducted other Buffalo raids on the 200 block of Wood Avenue, 300 block of Humboldt Parkway, 100 block of Hewitt Avenue, 200 block of Forest Avenue and the 100 block of Ontario Street. The Grand Island raid was on the 3000 block of Grand Island Boulevard.
Five arrests were made Friday, and at least one more is expected, according to Buffalo Police Commissioner Daniel Derenda. The names of those arrested and their charges were not available late Friday.
Authorities removed the dogs from the homes they raided.
The surviving dogs will be “examined, medically treated and otherwise cared for by the SPCA Serving Erie County,” officials said.
The dog killed at 269 Loring was a 13-year-old boxer named Ace, according to a resident at the home, who said police had the wrong address.
The resident, who identified herself as Deidra Patterson, said her 16-year-old niece has had severe medical issues for a dozen years and has been inseparably tied to Ace since she was a child. Besides the girl’s health problems, her parents are both deceased, and now so is her dog, Patterson said.
“That dog was her life,” Patterson said. “He was a family pet that kept a girl alive. He was her life.”
“They got the wrong person,” Patterson said.
She insisted there was no dogfighting operation on Loring.
“At the end of the day, God sees and knows all. He rights all wrongs,” she added.
Authorities, however, painted a much different picture.
They pointed to houses like the one on Loring and the others they raided as dens of crime and violence.
It’s why officials reconvened the Anti-Dogfighting Task Force late last month.
“It’s particularly disturbing when you look at how the animals are abused, how they’re chained and drugged,” said Mayor Byron W. Brown.
“It’s incredibly disturbing and, in some contexts, very frightening because people live in these areas where this is occurring,” Brown said.
“This is why we moved so swiftly and took it so seriously,” Brown added.
One police official involved in the raids called the dogfighting problem “very large in Buffalo.”
He said the investigation that led to Friday’s arrests began after a young pit bull, Ginja, was stolen from the city’s animal shelter on Oak Street.
Ginja was initially seized in a December raid at an Erb Street address that resulted in numerous animal-abuse charges levied against a suspended Buffalo police cellblock attendant.
The dog was later stolen from the shelter.
Experts from the New York City-based ASPCA reported many of the dogs seized Friday “exhibited scars and wounds consistent with fighting, and some appeared to be emaciated and in poor health.”
“Dog fighting is a national epidemic, and we are grateful for local authorities in actively pursuing this case and seeking justice for these innocent victims who were forced to live in deplorable conditions and subjected to horrific abuse,” said Tim Rickey, the ASPCA’s vice president of field investigations and response.
Besides the dogs, paraphernalia associated with dog fighting was also seized in the raids.
Derenda said it is likely the officers involved killed the dog out of necessity for their well-being. “If the dog was shot on entry, it was because the dog attacked,” he said. “The officers have to protect themselves.”