Case Snapshot
Case ID: 13387
Classification: Fighting
Animal: dog (pit-bull)
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Child or elder neglect
Drugs or alcohol involved
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Tuesday, Mar 11, 2008

County: Westchester

Charges: Misdemeanor, Felony CTA
Disposition: Convicted

Defendants/Suspects:
» Peter Byrne
» Anthony Gonzalez
» Tasha Lewis

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

Two dead pit bulls were found in trash bags Wednesday, just as police announced the rescue of 15 other dogs and the discovery of a dogfighting pit in a Yonkers basement.

Yonkers police Commissioner Edward Hartnett said there was some evidence the two discoveries were connected to each other and to two other pit bulls, crippled from dogfights, found in January in a trash bin at a Yonkers gas station. One of those dogs died.

Hartnett said he was unsure there was an organized dogfighting network in Yonkers, but he added, ``a lot of these guys do seem to know each other.''

``It's something going on all over the country,'' the commissioner said. ``There are certain people in our society who find this type of activity entertaining.''

The scarred, dead dogs found Wednesday were in black garbage bags behind the College of Mount St. Vincent, just over the Bronx line from Yonkers.

``We just ripped open a couple of trash bags and found two pit bulls,'' said Ken Ross, police chief for the Westchester County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. ``One male, one female, decomposed.'' He would not say what led him to the spot.

The discovery of the 15 pit bulls in Yonkers came during a Tuesday night raid by narcotics police, Hartnett said. Besides 6 ounces of cocaine, drug packaging and nearly $16,000 in cash, the police found a 3-foot-high Plexiglas fighting enclosure, treadmills for dogs, weighted neck chains for training, a whip and syringes used for medicating the animals, officials said.

Officers also heard dogs in a garage, obtained a search warrant and called in the SPCA, Ross said. He said the garage was filthy with excrement, no food or water was available to the 15 caged dogs and some were scarred and emaciated.

``The condition of the dogs, the conditions they were living in, it was cruel,'' Ross said. Hartnett said there was ``a significant amount of blood'' on the treadmills.

Hartnett and Ross said both fighting and training were probably conducted in the house.

During the raid, two Yonkers men were arrested on drug possession charges, Hartnett said. Peter Byrne, 25, who lived in the house, and Anthony Gonzalez, 24, were to be arraigned later Wednesday. No attorneys were listed for them on the court schedule.

Byrne's girlfriend and his two sons, aged 2 and 6, were also in the house, Hartnett said.

Ross said the dogs found Tuesday would be examined by veterinarians. The SPCA was determining whether the evidence would support felony dogfighting charges or just misdemeanor cruelty charges. The felony is punishable by up to four years in prison, the misdemeanor by up to one year.

Over the past year, several signs of dogfighting have surfaced in lower Westchester, just north of New York City. Last summer, five Rottweilers and a pit bull were rescued in Mount Vernon, not long after an injured pit bull was found lying in its own blood in the street. Also in Mount Vernon, 63 kittens were found in boxes on the doorstep of an animal shelter, likely saved from use as dogfighting bait. In October, six scarred dogs were found in a Yonkers garage.

Ross said Wednesday that publicity from the dogs found in January and from the case of former Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick, sent to prison for training pit bulls for fighting, had helped raise awareness of the crime. He said narcotics police have been trained to look for signs of dogfighting during their drug investigations ``because the two often are linked.'


Case Updates

A Yonkers man will spend the next five to nine years in state prison for his role in a brutal dogfighting ring last year and for stashing cocaine in a backyard doghouse.

State Supreme Court Justice Richard A. Molea today handed three consecutive prison sentences to 26-year-old Peter Byrne, who trained pit bulls and kept more than a dozen of the wounded animals at his Alida Street home.

Byrne pleaded guilty in October to felony drug possession and two counts of prohibition of animal fighting, also felonies.

The judge sentenced him to serve three years on the drug charge, followed by an additional two to six years on the animal charges.

Molea sentenced Byrne's live-in girlfriend, Tasha Lewis, to three years probation for her role in the dog-fighting operation. Lewis, 27, had pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor child endangerment charge for allowing her 7-year-old son to watch the dogs fight.

Yonkers police arrested Byrne last March 4 after connecting him to a drug sale.

While searching his home, police found more than a dozen emaciated pit bulls with bite and puncture wounds who were living in squalor inside a detatched garage. Three of the 16 pit bulls had to be euthanized for their extreme aggression.

Police found a plastic glass enclosure used for dog fighting and a host of veterinary drugs such as muscle enhancers, hypodermic needles, dog treadmills and other tools used to train dogs to fight.

Police also found $15,980 in cash during their search of Byrne's home and crack cocaine hidden inside a backyard dog house.

The Yonkers animal shelter took 10 dogs, while the remaining three were sent to an animal rescue group.
Source: lohud.com - Jan 15, 2009
Update posted on Jan 16, 2009 - 1:51PM 
A Yonkers man and his girlfriend pleaded guilty yesterday to charges stemming from a drug bust and brutal dog-fighting ring uncovered in March, the Westchester County District Attorney said.

Peter Byrne, 26, of 34 Alida St. pleaded guilty to the felonies, third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and two counts of prohibition of animal fighting. His girlfriend, Tasha Lewis, 27, of the same address, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor endangering the welfare of a child for allowing her 7-year-old son to be present while the dog fighting occurred, according to Lucian Chalfen, the district attorney's spokesman in White Plains.

On March 4, police arrested Byrne and a second man who did not plead guilty yesterday, Anthony Gonzalez, 27, of 2A Garfield St., after connecting them to a drug sale, officials said. Later, while executing a search warrant on Byrne's and Lewis' residence, police found a plastic glass enclosure used for dog fighting as well as a variety of veterinary drugs, muscle-enhancement substances, hypodermic instruments, dog treadmills and other tools connected with training dogs to fight. Inside a detached garage, police found more than a dozen emaciated pit bulls with bite and puncture wounds who were living in squalor.

Three of the 16 pit bulls had to be euthanized because they displayed extreme aggression and were considered a threat to children, said Ken Ross, the police chief of the Westchester County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"Those are the ones that were extremely aggressive and ticking time bombs," he said.

Three other dogs were sent to an animal rescue group while the Yonkers animal shelter took in the other 10, Ross said. It was unclear where those dogs are now located or their condition, he said.

Illegal dog-fighting operations are a national issue, often occurring in the unlikeliest places, such as on Alida Street, in the quiet Dunwoodie section of Yonkers, Ross said.

"The neighborhood, you wouldn't associate it with drugs or pitbulls," he said. "It's a problem all over."

Byrne and Lewis will be sentenced Jan. 15 in Westchester County Court. Byrne faces a maximum of nine years in prison while Lewis faces a year in county jail. Their lawyer could not be reached for comment.

Gonzalez, who faces a maximum of 12 years in prison, remains charged with the felonies - three counts of third-degree criminal possession of a controlled substance and a count of third-degree criminal sale of a controlled substance. He is expected to appear Nov. 17 in County Court. His lawyer declined to comment.

Yonkers police said they were conducting a surveillance of 34 Alida St. when they observed Byrne and Gonzalez leave the residence in Lewis' Dodge Ram truck and travel to Agar Street and Saw Mill River Road where Gonzalez sold crack to a third man. Police said they broke up the sale and eventually recovered the sold drugs, which were dropped by the drug buyer, who fled the scene.

Police said that in addition to the dog-fighting operation, they found at the residence $15,980 in cash and crack hidden inside a backyard dog house.
Source: LoHud - Oct 17, 2008
Update posted on Oct 17, 2008 - 1:46AM 
Three Yonkers residents have been indicted following a drug raid that led to the discovery of a dogfighting ring.

The Westchester District Attorney's office says 15 scarred and starving dogs were rescued in last month's raid on the home, which followed a street sale of cocaine that was witnessed by police.

Twenty-five-year-old Peter Byrne, who lived in the apartment, was indicted on charges including drug possession, dog fighting and animal cruelty. Because his children were in the house at the time, he was also charged with endangering children, police say.

Byrne's girlfriend Tasha Lewis faces drug and child-endangerment counts. Anthony Gonzalez also of Yonkers, faces only drug charges.
Source: The Associated Press via silive.com - April 18, 2008
Update posted on Apr 18, 2008 - 8:55PM 

References

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