305 pit bulls impounded from suspects in weekend raids
COLUMBIA, South Carolina—Raiding alleged dogfighters in the Carolinas for at least the seventh time in 10 months, “a joint team of more than 60 federal and state law enforcement officers executed nearly two dozen warrants” over the weekend of September 24-25, 2022 “in what is believed to be the biggest takedown of a dogfighting operation in South Carolina history,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of South Carolina announced on September 26, 2022.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not disclose how much of the evidence presented to obtain the warrants came through recent plea bargain settlements of previous dogfighting cases in the region.
Interrupted dogfight in progress
The first of the September 24, 2022 raids “interrupted a scheduled dogfighting match in Richland County,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office media release said.
Fourteen pit bulls were impounded at that location, Humane Society of the U.S. president Kitty Block blogged on September 26, 2022.
“The following morning, the officers executed 23 search warrants at various residences and properties in Richland, York, Orangeburg, Clarendon, Lee, and Sumter Counties that were known dogfighting kennels or associated with dogfighting,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office media release continued.
“In total,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said, “305 dogs were rescued.”
Of the 305, 275 pit bulls were “believed to be associated with dogfighting.”
WSOC television news, of Charlotte, North Carolina, added that, “At a property in York,” in addition to approximately 50 pit bulls, “30 beagles were found. The sheriff’s office said the dogs were taken by York County Animal Control and a contract company that specializes in rescuing fighting dogs.”
Names of suspects not released
The U.S. Attorney’s Office did not immediately release the names of the human suspects.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office credited the Humane Society of the United States and Bark Nation, of Ferndale, Michigan, with supporting the operation “by assisting with animal handling and care of the animals.”
The September 24-25, 2022 series of raids “seized approximately 30 firearms, $40,000 in cash, and various evidence related to dogfighting. More than 20 individuals were arrested for state charges relating to animal cruelty and dogfighting,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office finished.
ANIMALS 24-7 was informed by a well-placed confidential source, but has not been able to verify, that many and perhaps most of the impounded pit bulls have been transported to Michigan for possible rehoming.
As of September 27, 2022, neither Bark Nation nor the Humane Society of the U.S. had made such a claim, and as the pit bulls will be evidence for criminal charges against the 20 human suspects, relocating them from near the points of seizure and rehoming them rapidly would be unusual.
Anthonio Latoranodo Orr
The September 24-25, 2022 raids appear to have culminated a series of events that may have begun with the June 24, 2019 arrest of Anthonio Latoranodo Orr, 49, in York County, South Carolina, on seventy-five warrants alleging his involvement in “animal fighting or baiting, ill treatment of animals, violation of county ordinance, trafficking ice crack cocaine, weapons violations, and other drug violations,” itemized WBTV.
Orr had already served a five-year prison sentence after he was arrested for alleged dogfighting in February 2010, and convicted in March 2011.
Orr, now 52, on August 22, 2022 pleaded guilty to some of the charges in York County Criminal Court and was sentenced to serve seven years in prison.
Following the June 2019 Orr arrest, action against alleged dogfighters accelerated with the February 2021 impoundment of 25 pit bulls from Delontay Moore, 26, of Concord, North Carolina.
According to a November 17, 2021 media release from the U.S. Department of Justice, Moore was sentenced to “75 months in prison for conspiracy to commit dog fighting offenses and being a felon in possession of a firearm,” after pleading guilty to the charges on July 8, 2021.
Said the November 17, 2021 U.S. Department of Justice media release, “Moore sponsored and exhibited a dog in a dog fight in December 2019, after conspiring with others to prepare and train the dog for the fight. The dog lost and died of injuries sustained during the fight.
“In February 2021, agents seized 25 dogs from Moore, many of which exhibited the types of scars that are observed in dogs that are used in dog fights. They also showed evidence of gross neglect, including infections where their ears had been cropped; inflamed or infected wounds; and dehydration. On the day of the seizure, three dogs required emergency treatment, including treatment for a fractured leg with exposed bone.
“The felon-in-possession charge,” the November 17, 2021 U.S. Department of Justice media release added, “stemmed from an investigation by the Concord Police Department. According to court documents, the Concord Police Department received an anonymous tip that Moore — who had previously been convicted of drug and weapons felonies — was storing firearms around his property.
“In December 2019, a detective with the Concord Police Department conducted surveillance there and saw Moore carry what proved to be an AR-15 assault style rifle behind his house and stash it under a tarp. Concord Police Department subsequently recovered the weapon during a search.”
Sixty felonies consolidated into ten
The Moore case appeared to be unrelated to the next two dogfighting busts in the Carolinas, but those busts may have helped law enforcement to build the list of suspects who were arrested in the September 24-25, 2022 raids.
On April 28, 2022, disclosed Genevieve Curtis, of WSOC television news in Gastonia, North Carolina, “Animal care enforcement officers began investigating after receiving a tip that dogs were being trained to fight.
“They brought about 30 dogs to shelters for evaluation and treatment.”
The dogs’ owner, Terrance Marvin Cooper, 39, was initially charged with 30 counts of animal cruelty and 30 counts of dogfighting.
Those sixty counts, all felonies, were in June 2022 consolidated into five felony counts of cruelty to animals and five felony counts of dog fighting,
Meanwhile, Dwayne Loadholt, 43, on May 25, 2022 in Fairfax, South Carolina, was charged with “animal fighting and ill treatment of animals, both felonies,” reported FITSNews executive editor Liz Farrell, “after a South Carolina Law Enforcement Division investigation led to the discovery of ‘pit bull type dogs’ on his property who had scarring on their faces, ears, necks and front legs, according to a [South Carolina Law Enforcement Division] news release.
“The dogs were brought to the attention of investigators,” Farrell said, “when an Allendale County Sheriff’s Office deputy responded to a call for service at Loadholt’s property after receiving complaints about animals being mistreated there. These complaints had also been made in the past.”
A third incident coming to light at about the same time, possibly contributing information to the dogfighting probe, involved the theft of a Yorkipoo, a cross of a Yorkshire terrier with a poodle.
The Yorkipoo allegedly thrown into a pen with pit bulls who killed her. The killing was videotaped and posted to social media.
The location, reported Andrew Dys of the Rock Hill Herald, was “in rural eastern York County south of Rock Hill, near the Catawba River, north of the Chester County line,” in proximity to one of the September 24-25, 2022 raids.
McMillian, Twitty, & Cave
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Asheville, North Carolina, issued the June 7, 2022 twelve-count indictment of Laddie Dwayne McMillian, 46, and Derrick Twitty, 47, respectively of Columbus and Tryon, South Carolina, for multiple dogfighting-related offenses.
Toriano Marcellus Cave, 51, of High Point, North Carolina, was raided next, on July 21, 2022.
Law enforcement had known at least since 2005 that Cave was involved in dogfighting, according to testimony incorporated into the December 19, 2006 drug trafficking indictments of three other men, Walter Ells, Dorian Swan, and Kelvin Moses.
Cave was charged with felonious possession of a dog he allegedly intended to use for fighting.
Four days later, reported Morgan Fogarty of WCCB on July 25, 2022, police in Monroe, South Carolina “arrested 19-year-old Joshua Mungo, Junior,” charging him “with felony dogfighting, felony cruelty to animals, and misdemeanor restraining dogs in a cruel manner.
“42-year-old Genine Sturdivant was also charged for misdemeanor cruelty to animals,” Fogarty added. “Our animal rescue contacts tell us there were 40 adult dogs and ten puppies on the property. No word on where the dogs are now. We are told the investigation is ongoing, and more charges could be filed.”
Mungo was previously arrested with two other men in November 2019 on eleven counts of felony breaking and entering of a motor vehicle, one count of attempting breaking and entering into a motor vehicle, one count of larceny of a firearm, another county of felony larceny and an additional count of misdemeanor larceny.
The Orr sentencing on August 22, 2022 and the raids of September 24-25 followed at approximate one-month intervals.
The local rules for animal seizure in my area are these. Animal control can seize animals and charge the owner criminally for neglect/abuse. The owner must pay $450 per month for each animal he/she wants returned. In four months that is $1800 per animal. If the owner wins in court, he/she can get the money and reserved animals back. If he/she loses, the money and animals are forfeited. If the owner pleads guilty or no contest, the animals are gone. If the owner accepts a plea bargain, the money paid and most or all of the animals are gone. Animal Control can select whichever animals to seize.
and leave the rest. For example, four healthy designer kittens were seized. That’s $1800 per month or
$9,000 for five months. Few can pay that. The kittens weren’t worth that much.
A dog running inside a fenced in yard with food, water, and shelter was taken allegedly to keep this highly trainedq dog safe while the owner was hospitalized. However, abuse/neglect were filed on that dog. While confiscated, he was evaluated to see if he would make a good police dog (He was slapped in the face.). He simply isn’t aggressive.
In at least one case, the seizure was illegal. Why? No search warrant.
Obviously this didn’t involve fighting pitbulls. Still, people need to keep an open mind when hearing about all animal neglect/abuse.
R Quinn says
Exactly! Well said. Thank you for not jumping on the bandwagon.
In the case of “fighting” dogs, they are not rehomed. They are put down. Puppies *may* be altered and adopted out, but the rest are put down. After being put in pens for months at a time as evidence. Then they are put to sleep. They aren’t rescued. They’re killed.
They’re just not family pets at that point.
With very few exceptions, fighting dogs are ALWAYS rehomed in the U.S., and if you search Google for: ASPCA HEART Act, you’ll see the ASPCA has lobbied to get them put in homes faster than they already are.
Vicki Peters says
Are you suggesting being humanely euthanized is the equivalent of a lifetime of cruelty and torment? Not all dogs from fighting organizations are euthanized. Or put up for adoption. It often depends on their temperament and ability to place them in a foster or find an adopter. No responsible organization is going to put a dangerous dog up for adoption. There’s no magic money well to fund a place for such dogs. Animal shelters exist on shoestring budgets. Bottom line is that enough resources aren’t devoted to prevention and public education for such matters.
Merritt Clifton says
Unfortunately, that “No responsible organization is going to put a dangerous dog up for adoption” is wishful thinking. Since 2007, when public sympathy for the pit bulls impounded in the Michael Vick case made “save them all” the animal sheltering mantra, more than 450 dogs rehomed by “responsible” U.S. shelters have disfigured people, most of those dogs being pit bulls, and 83 dogs rehomed by “responsible” U.S. shelters have killed at least 51 people.
Prior to the Michael Vick case, only four dogs rehomed by U.S. animal shelters had ever killed anyone in nearly 160 years––and none did before 1988. Among the shelter dogs who killed people were two wolf hybrids, a pit bull, and a Doberman.
judy watson says
HANG THEM ALL!!!!
Ruby M Mccoy says
I agree and they should burn in hell.
Karen Davis, PhD says
It almost seems as if white rural people are particularly attached to cockfighting, and black rural people to dog fighting. Is there any basis for this perception? Michael Vick and his criminal associates, of course (dog fighting), and the SHARK investigations (cockfighting).
Karen Davis, PhD, President, United Poultry Concerns. http://www.upc-online.org
Merritt Clifton says
There is a substantial discrepancy between public perceptions of who is involved in animal fighting, based on media notice of big busts, and who is actually involved, based on logging involvement in breeding, selling, publishing information for audiences of cockfighters & dogfighters, and arrests in smaller cases that do not get high-profile attention.
Cockfighting arrived in what are now the United States from two different directions, the Spanish conquistadores and the first English settlers. While cockfighting was suppressed by the Puritans as a morals offense, and was banned throughout the U.S., including in Puerto Rico, by the early 20th century, enforcement was weak, especially in the remote regions of the South and in the rural Southwest. These are the areas where cockfighting remains most prevalent today. By the numbers, which ANIMALS 24-7 has logged for 30 years, more than 90% of the alleged cockfighters who have been brought before the courts in the U.S. have had Hispanic surnames, of evident Mexican, Puerto Rican, or Filipino ethnicity. Asian surnames occur next most often, mostly of Filipino, Thai, Vietnamese, or Indonesian origin. Caucasian surnames are relatively rare, but the Caucasian cockfighters of the Appalachians appear to have the closest relationships with law enforcement, followed by the Hispanic cockfighters of central California. This is why Showing Animals Respect & Kindness and the Humane Farming Association have concentrated their investigative efforts on the Appalachians and Salinas County, California, the latter having been the reputed hub of cockfighting in California for more than 200 years.
Cockfighting for whatever reason never appears to have become established among Afro-Americans. Though there are & long have been some Afro-American cockfighters, Afro-American churches have denounced and discouraged animal fighting of all sorts for as long as there is any accessible record of it (or gambling of any sort) being addressed.
Dogfighting in the U.S. had similar dual origins to cockfighting, but caught on in the U.S. chiefly in the rural South, where dogs ancestral to today’s pit bulls were extensively used by Caucasian settlers against Native Americans and runaway slaves, and were later used in lynchings, as ANIMALS 24-7 has extensively documented. Dogfighting, like cockfighting and other vices, was “taxed” and “regulated” by the Ku Klux Klan from the late 19th century, as was pit bull breeding, until the disintegration of the traditional Klan circa 1970. There is practically no record of Afro-American involvement in dogfighting, or with pit bulls at all except as victims of attacks by white-owned dogs, prior to the very late 1970s.
This is the time frame within which what older white dogfighters refer as “leakage” occurred, when dogfighting and pit bull breeding spread via drug dealers and prison gangs into the Afro-American communities, more in inner cities at first. Glorified by elements of the “rap” and “hip-hop” culture, dogfighting and pit bull breeding passed in the 1980s-1990s from being chiefly rural white pursuits to being more associated with Afro-American “gangstas.” However, as the Michael Vick case that broke in 2007 demonstrated, fighting dogs and knowhow were mostly acquired from older rural white breeders and dogfighters, for example the notorious David Tant.
The Afro-Americans arrested in the recent busts in the Carolinas appear to be the indirect heirs to the likes of Tant. But increasingly visible Afro-American involvement in dogfighting scarcely means that white breeders and dogfighters are any less active than ever, protected, like white cockfighters, by close ties with corrupt local and sometimes state-level law enforcement.
Karen Davis, PhD says
Merritt, thanks for this history. Most informative.
Connie Mogull says
Just reading this report made me ill–looking at the cruel faces of those arrested was sickening. These are the common man’s Michael Vick. As mentioned, they threw someone’s tiny Yoriepoo in to the ring to be viciously killed. Of course that is likely a routine thing that these monsters do. People who give dogs and puppies and kittens and cats away free are warned of this but it doesn’t seem to register, how many innocent pet dogs have been stolen from backyards end up dying this death. If even one of these charged get away with less that ten solid years of jail time, it is a tremendous miscarriage of justice. How many man hours were spent investigating these low life organizers? How much of our tax dollars. The main thing is that the worst possible people benefit financially from this bloody killing of man’s best friend is a national disgrace. Throw away the key to their jail cell.
It isn’t just free animals that are killed:
This isn’t the 1950s. Dogfighters have more money than most people will ever see. If they want your cat, they’ll buy it.
Very good Connie McGull!!! You hit all the right points !! It is absolutely disgusting, heartwrenching, and the people that do this are involved in many illegal activities! As a former ACO and vet tech- I can’t express enough WHY these monsters should never be allowed back into society. Children, spouses, and naturally all life have very little value. Pure Evil rules their minds and hearts. I don’t want to lock them up. I’d “destroy” them and cremate them. No tax money to house, feed or etc. Rid the world of their insane and heartless being. Zero tolerance.
Jamaka Petzak says
Hoping all of these dangerous dogs are destroyed and that those arrested receive maximum sentences. Also hoping these raids continue and that all of these dogs are destroyed.
Sharing with gratitude and all of the usual thoughts and feelings.
Annoula Wylderich says
Disgusting human beings. Let’s hope justice prevails and they get nice LONG sentences and are prohibited from ever owning animals again.
I have heard dogfighting apologists argue that “dogmen” never actually steal pets or bait fighting dogs with small, helpless animals. As if people already engaging in multiple violent felonies will have some moral prohibition against stealing, or those who derive pleasure from watching dogs rip each other apart wouldn’t also derive pleasure from watching them rip apart smaller animals. The disgraceful incident with the Yorkiepoo, as well as other confirmed incidents of this sort of cruelty, stand in stark contrast with the arguments made by dogfighters and their enablers.
Dogfighting apologists??? Does that mean that somewhere out in the semi-civilized edges of the southern backwoods there are people who have “valid” and “logical” reasons to support dogfighting? Some people are sick. Thank you to all involved in helping to round them up and put them under the jail where they belong.
Merritt Clifton says
“Dogfighting apologists” tend to be pit bull advocates who argue, against the weight of historical, behavioral, and statistical evidence, that pit bulls are just like other dogs except that they tend to attract bad owners. “Dogfighting apologists” contend that the fighting and other dangerous behavior exhibited by pit bulls is incidental, rather than intrinsic to the breed type.
Those I’m thinking of are even more transparent and shameless. At one time I had an ongoing back-and-forth with a person who was proud that their dog came from fighting lines, although they claimed not to be involved in dogfighting themselves (yeah, right). They took a very hardline libertarian “animals are property and I do what I want with my property” viewpoint.
I’ve also had the misfortune to run across a few blogs/websites that espoused a similar view.