Ten people are facing criminal charges following the weekend breakup of a dog fighting ring operating in Elizabeth, acting Union County Prosecutor Grace H. Park announced Monday.
A joint investigation by the Prosecutor’s Office’s Guns, Gangs, Drugs, and Violent Crimes Task Force, the New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SCPA), the FBI’s Newark Division, the New Jersey State Police, and the Elizabeth Police Department culminated Saturday night with arrests made at a Magnolia Avenue home and following a traffic stop of a van nearby.
Located in the home and the vehicle were a total of 17 dogs, several with obvious injuries and most being kept in small, dirty steel or plastic cages; a treadmill allegedly used to build up the dogs’ endurance levels in preparation for fights; a dog fighting ring stained with blood; various collars, chains, and harnesses; a pellet gun, marijuana, and a stolen ATV. The scene was secured with the assistance of each of the aforementioned agencies and the Union County Sheriff’s Office.
Arrested as a result of the operation were 19-year-old Shaquille Mars, 20-year-old Leon King, 20-year-old Rahman Johnson, 21-year-old Tamir Norville, 22-year-old George Parker, Jr., 28-year-old Larry Polanco, 32-year-old Shakemah Lytle-Johnson, 36-year-old Algernon Norville, and 64-year-old Nathaniel Thompson, all Elizabeth residents, as well as 21-year-old Rashadik Johnson of Irvington.
Algernon Norville was charged with a second-degree certain persons offense for possession of the pellet gun, third-degree fighting or baiting animals, and marijuana possession; his bail was set at $75,000. The remaining defendants were charged with third-degree fighting or baiting animals and released on summonses, with the exception of Thomspon, who was held on $20,000 bond.
The dogs recovered as a result of this operation are currently in the custody of the SCPA; it is expected that they will be evaluated by veterinary specialists with the intent of placing them in rehabilitative care elsewhere in the state.
The New Jersey statute criminalizing dog fighting was amended in 2013 in order to make involvement in such activity a third-degree criminal offense punishable by three to five years in state prison.