Apartment building superintendent and basement apartment occupant Raul Sanchez, 57, has been arrested for running what authorities are calling one of the worst dog fighting rings they have seen.
The New York Police Department (NYPD) worked in tandem with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to remove 47 Pit Bull Terriers from the windowless basement room.
Rescuers described that as they led the terrified dogs from the building and to safety that day, many of the Pitties squinted in the sunlight, having never been outside of the basement.
“It’s pretty horrific inside — horrible conditions,” NYPD Deputy Inspector Anthony Favale said during a press conference following the rescue. “I couldn’t even describe it; the dogs appear to be in various stages of abuse and injury.”
Inside the basement, authorities discovered the 47 dogs, which ranged from young 12-week-old pups to about 5-years-old, living in 22 small, stacked cages alongside a makeshift fighting ring and an area that could hold about 100 spectators.
ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Senior Director of Operations Howard Lawrence said many of the Pit Bull Terriers rescued bore telltale signs of dog fighting.
“As you saw the animals coming out, you saw the white marks on their front paws and faces — those are all scars,” Lawrence explained.
To disguise the dog-fighting operation from the other apartment tenants, Sanchez had the dogs’ vocal chords damaged, preventing them from barking.
Sanchez equipped the basement with cruel training implements as well. The walls were lined with treadmills, and investigators found syringes, harnesses, chicken parts, muzzles, and a .25-caliber handgun near the fighting arena.
The rescued Pitties are currently being held at an animal shelter and have been evaluated by veterinarians. They have been described as responsive despite what they’ve been through.
The ASPCA’s Lawrence told the media, in the week since the dogs’ rescue, it’s too early to tell if or when the Pit Bull Terriers will be available for adoption. “I think we’re getting ahead of ourselves with that,” he told CBS New York. “Let’s just see how they are, just get them medically sound do behavior assessment and we’ll take it from there.”