Case Snapshot
Case ID: 20006
Classification: Fighting, Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: dog (pit-bull)
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Drugs or alcohol involved
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Friday, Apr 18, 2014

County: Passaic

Disposition: Alleged
Case Images: 2 files available

» Caurie Swinger
» Ashley Bryant

Their target was drugs. What police also found was an unexpected horror of animal cruelty that included dead fighting dogs stuffed into garbage bags, starving puppies crammed into crates, and blood-splashed walls.

Paterson police arrested two people on Friday afternoon, saying they found evidence of a large dog-fighting ring being run out of a city home where pit bulls, most less than a year old, were being trained to fight. They said they rescued 21 pit bulls, 18 of them puppies and three maimed adults, and found the bodies of four dead canines along with what they originally expected: a large cache of drugs.

Police rescued 21 pit bulls from a house on Van Blarcom St. in Paterson on Friday, breaking up what they described as a major dog-fighting ring. Most of the dogs were jammed in crates.

Most of the live dogs were found crammed into crates in the basement of the home at 226 Van Blarcom St., where the dead dogs also were found stuffed into four plastic bags "like yesterday's garbage" said John DeCando, Paterson animal control officer.

"It was horrible," he said. "This is one of the largest dog-fighting rings I've seen."

Police said many of the pit bulls found in the basement of the Paterson house were maimed and had signs of starvation.
Caurie Swinger, 21, and Ashley Bryant, 32, were arrested on animal cruelty and drug possession charges, police Capt. Troy Oswald said. In addition to the dogs, police found a handgun and an estimated $12,000 worth of crack cocaine and marijuana during a raid that began at 1 p.m., Oswald said.

DeCando said steroids used for fighting dogs also were found in the home, along with needles, electronic collars to shock the dogs, and bloodstained sticks used to pry open their jaws.

He said that the three surviving adult dogs had severe injuries from fighting and were taken to a veterinarian for treatment. The snout of one dog appeared deformed from having been bitten. DeCando said that the adult dogs were expected to recover while the rest were being held at the city's pound. All of the dogs, he said, will be put up for adoption.

"Each dog is adoptable; not one will be put to sleep," DeCando said. "They're friendly. They just got hooked up with bad people."

Most of the dogs were thin and scared, quickly warming up to detectives who offered them food, Oswald said. "They just wanted some attention," he said. "They [they accused] didn't have a chance to make them mean yet."

DeCando said that most of the dogs were kept in the basement and that dog fights apparently took place in a bedroom upstairs on the first floor, where the walls were found splattered with blood. Oswald said that the dogs appear to have been trained at the home but may have been fighting elsewhere.

Several neighbors said large groups of people sometimes came and went from the blue wood-framed house, located on a narrow street that is one block long. One neighbor said that was not unusual for the neighborhood. Another neighbor, who said as many as a dozen people at a time crammed into the house, added that it seemed odd because the street is not readily accessible and is almost hidden from surrounding neighborhoods.

A woman who showed up at the home Friday evening said her daughter is its owner. She said, "I don't know anything about that" when she was asked about dog fighting. She said neither she nor her daughter live at the home and that she wanted to check on the property and the dogs that live there. She didn't respond when she was told all the dogs had been taken away and declined to be interviewed further.

The home is owned by a woman named Constance Swinger, according to tax records. Neighbors said the owner was rarely at the house, but that a man they believe to be her son lives there.

Neighbors said the man who lived at the house owned two or three dogs that they would see outside, but that they didn't know anything about a dog fighting ring or any other dogs at the home. One man, who asked not to be identified, said that the three dogs he saw appeared to be malnourished and were housed in trash cans in the back yard.

"You could hear them crying at night," he said.

There were four trash cans on their sides in the back yard that appeared to have been used to house dogs. Three of them were partially covered with wooden boards and the other had a hole cut into its cover.

Oswald said detectives found one dog in a first-floor room. Four others were chained outside, he said, and 16 were being kept in crates stacked in the basement, the same area where police discovered bags containing the scarred bodies of the four dead dogs.

Anyone who wants to adopt one of the dogs may call the Second Chance Pet Adoption at 973-208-1054.


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