MORRISANIA — Police and animal workers rescued dozens of dogs and puppies Thursday from the basement of a Bronx apartment building, where the animals were allegedly being held and trained for a dog-fighting ring.
Cops arrested Raul Sanchez, of The Bronx, on animal fighting and cruelty charges, police said.
"It was pretty horrific," Deputy Inspector Anthony Favale, of the NYPD's Vice Enforcement Division, told reporters Thursday afternoon. "It's deplorable conditions. I couldn't even describe it."
The 47 dogs, pit bulls ranging from 12 weeks to 5 years old, were recovered from the basement of the building at 1245 Sherman Ave. They were all responsive and in overall good condition but showed clear signs of abuse, police said.
The animals had been kept in makeshift and traditional metal cages, and some were chained. Favale said evidence shows the basement was being used as a grounds for breeding, warehousing and training the dogs.
"It was a puppy mill, basically," he said.
The basement also contained a makeshift arena with space for 100 spectators, NYPD officials said.
Investigators confiscated a loaded handgun from the basement, along with muzzles, harnesses and other dog-training equipment, syringes and a shopping cart full of raw chicken parts, police said.
Favale said the investigation began a year ago and is ongoing.
Howard Lawrence, senior director of the ASPCA's Humane Law Enforcement Division, said the dogs were being taken to a shelter for a medical and behavioral assessment. Many of them showed clear signs of fighting, he said.
"Those white marks on their faces, those are all scars," he said. "They may not have seen the light of day, perhaps even since they were born."
Favale said the dogs had gone largely undetected by neighbors because they were kept in a well-hidden section of the basement.
"You really didn't even hear the dogs until you approached them," he said.
Neighbors who know Sanchez said he worked in the building as a super.
"I've seen him walking around with two or three dogs," said one neighbor, who would only give her name as Ms. Rivera. "He would walk them, he would feed them. He seemed like a good person."
But tenant Julia Torres, who has lived in the building for 40 years, said Sanchez frequently had raucous guests over in the basement apartment, where they would drink and play loud music.
"He needs to be locked up, because he's a dog himself," she said.
The ASPCA said the dogs would need to be fully evaluated before they could be considered for adoption.