The Pennsylvania SPCA confirmed late yesterday that the individual arrested in Saturday's dog fighting bust was Antoine Talley, who was convicted of animal cruelty in connection with a dog fighting operation in 2000.
PSPCA spokeswoman Wendy Marano said the group had a few complaints about barking dogs but explained that barking is a city ordinance and not a cruelty ordinance, which are enforced by its officers..
"Officers had been by on a couple of occasions, however we were never granted permission to inspect the property or no one was home," she said. And the property was surrounded by a high wall so activities that would have allowed the PSPCA probable cause to obtain a warrant were not visible.
But they continued to conduct surveillance on the property and the owner eventually allowed officers access to back yard and we were able to have enough probably cause about the conditions the dogs were being kept in to get the warrant, Marano said.
Once inside the house officers observed a fighting ring and the dog fighting equipment and paraphernalia in the basement, she said.
The five unneutered pit bulls that were rescued in the raid Saturday were not adopted from the PSPCA or ACCT, because those organizations require spay/neuter before adoption, said Marano. In addition,a prior cruelty record would preclude him from adopting animals.
Pennsylvania SPCA officers arrived at a home on the 300 block of Van Kirk Street Saturday in the Lawndale section to investigate a suspected dog fighting operation.
They arrested Talley, 36, whose Facebook page says he is an employee of the Philadelphia Housing Authority.Talley was given a three year probation in his 2000 cruelty case.
“He’s looking at felony charges if he’s convicted," said George Bengal, the PSPCA's director of law enforcement. "He could possibly wind up doing jail time for this.”
Ralph Pratt, the suspect’s neighbor, told NBC the dog-fighting operation had been going on for two years, normally in the early morning hours, waking up residents who lived nearby.
Pratt claims officials took the dogs from the suspect a year ago but that he used new dogs shortly after.
“Three months later, because they did not destroy the kennel he has them in, he just repopulated,” said Pratt. “In West Philadelphia, where he lived before, he was kicked out of the neighborhood for the same thing. Then he came up here and set up. This is a habitual dog trainer and breeder for the dog fights.”
Some animal welfare advocates wonder why the latest raid took so long. "It creates a lot of questions," said Tom Hickey, a member of the Dog Law Advisory Board.
He said the raid also underscores the need for passage of a bill that allows law enforcement to investigate and charge individuals in dog fighting cases based on the presence of dog fighting paraphernalia alone , such as heavy chains, exercise equipment and so-called "rape stands" for dog breeding.
Too often, dog fighters escape charges by hiding dogs, according to the bill's sponsor Rep. Todd Stephens (R., Montgomery.)
The bust comes during Pennsylvania's Pit Bull Awareness Month declared by Gov. Corbett.