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Press Release

Massachusetts Man Arrested on Federal Dogfighting Charges

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs
Operation Resulted in Seizure of Several Pit Bull-Type Dogs

A Massachusetts man was arrested today in Hanson, Massachusetts, for allegedly possessing dogs for participation in a dogfighting venture at his Massachusetts home.

According to the criminal indictment, John Murphy, 50, of Hanson, was charged on nine counts of possessing animals for use in an animal fighting venture, in violation of the federal Animal Welfare Act. At his home, Murphy possessed items associated with participation in a dogfighting venture. This included intravenous infusion equipment, syringes, anabolic steroids, a skin stapler, forceps, equipment and literature for training dogs including a slat mill and a flirt pole, break sticks used to separate fighting dogs and a breeding stand used to immobilize female dogs during breeding to prevent harm while mating.

The United States also filed a civil complaint for forfeiture of 13 pit bull-type dogs seized by federal agents while executing a federal search warrant in June 2023 of Murphy’s residence and another residence in Townsend, Massachusetts. The dogs are currently in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service (USMS) and are being cared for by a USMS contractor. The civil complaint also alleges that several of the seized dogs had scarring.

The civil forfeiture complaint further alleges that Murphy frequently communicated with other dogfighters via Facebook. Murphy also allegedly posted several dogfighting-related photos to his Facebook account, including a photo of a pit bull-type dog with scarring and discolorations on its head and leg consistent with that of dogfighting, as well as a photo of a pit bull-type dog restrained in a breeding stand. Additionally, in 2019, 2020 and 2021, Murphy allegedly posted videos that depicted pit bull-type dogs physically tethered to treadmill-like-devices commonly used to physically condition dogs in preparation for a dogfight.

To report animal fighting crimes, please contact your local law enforcement or the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG) complaint hotline at or 1-800-424-9121.

For each charge of possessing animals for use in an animal fighting venture, Murphy faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD), Acting U.S. Attorney Joshua S. Levy for the District of Massachusetts, Acting Special Agent in Charge Christopher P. Robinson of USDA-OIG’s Northeast Region, Interim Colonel John E. Mawn Jr. of the Massachusetts State Police and Director Joseph F. King of the Animal Rescue League of Boston’s Law Enforcement Division made the annoucement.

USDA-OIG investigated the case with valuable assistance from Homeland Security Investigations; U.S. Customs and Border Protection; the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service; USMS; Maine State Police; New Hampshire State Police; Massachusetts Office of the State Auditor; Rhode Island Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and police departments of Hanson, Boston and Acton, Massachusetts.

Trial Attorney Matthew T. Morris of ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Danial E. Bennett and Kaitlin J. Brown for the District of Massachusetts are prosecuting the criminal case. Senior Trial Attorney J. Brett Grosko and Trial Attorney Caitlyn F. Cook of ENRD’s Wildlife and Marine Resources Section and Asset Recovery Unit Chief Carol E. Head for the District of Massachusetts are pursuing the civil forfeiture case.

An indictment is merely an allegation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. The United States must establish that the dogs are subject to forfeiture by a preponderance of the evidence.

Updated April 5, 2024

Press Release Number: 24-373