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Bronx Man Pleads Guilty in Major Dog Fighting Operation, Faces One to Three Years in Prison

January 25, 2013

NEW YORK—The ASPCA® (The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals®), in conjunction with the Bronx District Attorney’s Office, today announced that Raul Sanchez has pleaded guilty for his role in a major dog fighting operation in the Bronx. He faces one to three years in prison when he is sentenced on February 7. Sanchez will also be ordered to pay restitution to the ASPCA for expenses the organization incurred in rescuing and caring for the dogs. Should he be granted parole, Sanchez would be prohibited from owning any animals during the length of his parole. He could also face deportation to his native Cuba after his sentence is served.

Sanchez, 58, was arrested on June 21, 2012 and indicted on July 25 on the following charges: 63 counts of prohibition of animal fighting (13 felony charges; 50 misdemeanor charges); six counts of aggravated cruelty to animals (felony); six counts of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals (misdemeanor); and one count of criminal possession of a weapon in the fourth degree (misdemeanor). On January 24, he pleaded guilty to one count of each of the charges. The case was prosecuted by Assistant District Attorney Elizabeth Brandler of the Rackets Bureau, with support from the ASPCA’s Legal Advocacy department.

"Mr. Sanchez ran a sophisticated operation in which dogs were abused, exploited and forced to fight for entertainment and moneymaking purposes," said Matt Bershadker, senior vice president of the ASPCA's Anti-Cruelty Group. "We are thankful to the NYPD for infiltrating this brutal operation, and to the Bronx District Attorney's Office for its commitment to prosecuting this case and seeking justice for the animal victims, many of whom have now found new, loving homes. This sends a clear message that perpetrators who engage in this horrific form of cruelty in New York City will be held accountable for their actions."

On June 21, ASPCA responders, at the request of the NYPD Vice Enforcement Division and Bronx District Attorney's Office, assisted in the removal, forensic evidence collection, and on-scene documentation of 50 dogs seized from a dog fighting operation in a six-story apartment building in the Bronx. The dogs, ranging from puppies to adults, were living in crude cages in the corner room of a basement, rarely, if ever, seeing the light of day, unless they were brought outside the room to be trained or fought. The basement included a makeshift fighting arena with capacity for dozens of spectators. Also recovered from the scene were a loaded .25-caliber handgun, multiple pet carriers, U.S. currency, and paraphernalia associated with a sophisticated dog fighting operation, including dog treadmills, harnesses, muzzles, syringes, and a shopping cart full of raw chicken parts. The dogs were transferred to a temporary shelter, where they were triaged by the ASPCA’s veterinary medical team and later evaluated individually by the ASPCA’s Anti-Cruelty Behavior Team.

For more than two months, the ASPCA's Field Investigations & Response team and volunteers from various rescue groups cared for and provided the dogs with extensive socialization, a healthy diet, medical care and exercise. In September, more than 30 dogs were transferred to several animal rescue groups throughout the Northeast, including the ASPCA Adoption Center in Manhattan.

Organized dog fighting is a brutal form of animal abuse that occurs in every part of the country and in every type of community. On January 23, legislators reintroduced the Animal Fighting Spectator Prohibition Act, which would make it a federal offense to attend an organized animal fight and would impose additional penalties for bringing a minor to an animal fight. For more information about this cruel sport and the work being done by the ASPCA, please visit www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/dog-fighting.