3 arrests after dogfighting evidence found

January 26, 2010|By Nick Madigan | nick.madigan@baltsun.com

Three North Point residents have been arrested on drug and animal cruelty charges, Baltimore County police said, after officers raided a townhouse and found evidence of dogfighting and steroids and exercise gear designed to give the animals added strength and stamina.

Baltimore County police said Tuesday they discovered the dogfighting ring last week when they executed search warrants that were intended to uncover a drug-dealing operation in a two-story townhouse on the 7500 block of Lange St., near the intersection of Merritt Boulevard and North Point Road.

Police Chief James W. Johnson said in a phone interview that detectives found not only numerous items indicating that illicit drugs were being sold from there but all sorts of paraphernalia that pointed to dogfighting.

"They also recovered three highly aggressive pit bulls that were living there and were owned by one of these people," Johnson said.

The animals, which he said showed signs of having been injured at some point, were taken in by Baltimore County Animal Control officers, with whom they remain.

Johnson said that there was blood spatter on some walls, suggesting that dog fights had taken place inside the house. Also found were weights, chains, collars and a treadmill that was used to develop stamina in the animals.

"Imagine weight discs of about 10 or 15 pounds, with leather straps designed to go around the neck or head to build muscle strength in the neck and the jaw," the police chief said. "The suspects also had large quantities of steroids and antibiotics, medicated bandages, IV's and syringes to treat dogs' injuries."

A statement from the Police Department identified the three people arrested as Nicole Marie Caruso, 26; Michael Eckert, 25; and Romy Bogier, 28. The latter was the owner of the dogs, the chief said.

The three were charged with possession of intent to distribute marijuana, possession of a controlled dangerous substance and cruelty to animals, and were incarcerated in the Baltimore County Detention Center.

Johnson said the trio had not yet been charged with dogfighting, but that such a charge remained a possibility. He said dogfighting was a felony that called for three years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

Neighbors had long complained about fighting between rivals -- Johnson declined to call them gang members -- on the 7500 block of Lange St.

"These two groups had caused disorder for months," he said. "Fighting, threatening each other, violent attacks against each other."

Johnson said officers had also been aware of complaints that the dogs had bitten residents of the area, but the notion that organized dogfighting was going on there became apparent only when the house was searched.

The Humane Society of the United States says on its Web site that dogfighting is "rampant in our cities, perpetuating animal cruelty, violence and crime," and that it "causes horrible animal suffering." The organization says that about 250,000 dogs are placed in fighting pits each year, a pastime followed by roughly 40,000 people around the country.

Earlier versions of this article and an accompanying headline incorrectly reported that three North Point residents had been charged with running a dogfighting ring. The three were charged with possession of intent to distribute marijuana, possession of a controlled dangerous substance and cruelty to animals. The Baltimore Sun regrets the error.

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