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Wednesday, September 7, 2016

New Jersey Man Charged with Possessing Dogs for Dog Fighting

Defendant Connected to Individual Involved in Dog Fighting Conspiracy

 A Cumberland County, New Jersey, man allegedly connected to and living with an individual involved in a dog fighting conspiracy was arrested today for possessing dogs for the purpose of dog fighting, announced Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden, head of the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman for the District of New Jersey.

Robert A. Elliott Sr., 47, of Millville, New Jersey, was charged by complaint with two counts of possessing pit bull-type dogs for dog fighting ventures in New Jersey and elsewhere.  He is expected to appear before U.S. District Judge Joel Schneider for the District of New Jersey in Camden, New Jersey, federal court.

According to documents filed in this case and statements made in court: the federal Animal Welfare Act makes it a felony to fight dogs or to possess, train, sell, buy, deliver, receive, or transport dogs intended for use in dog fighting. 

On June 1, Frank Nichols and other individuals were charged by complaint with violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act pertaining to dog fighting.  That day law enforcement officers executed a search warrant of a residence on a multi-acre property in Millville where Nichols lived.   Elliott, also lived at the residence.

During the search of the residence, law enforcement officers seized 13 live pit bull-type dogs.  Seven of the dogs were housed on heavy chains in a wooded area behind the house.  The dogs were spaced so that they could not reach one another.  Two additional dogs were housed individually in pens in the wooded area near the chained dogs.  Law enforcement officers found three more dogs in shipping crates in the unfinished basement.  One of the 13 dogs, who appeared ill, was found in a crate in a room on the first floor.

Several of the dogs had scars and other signs of injury and all of the dogs had untreated veterinary conditions. Law enforcement also found other indications that the dogs were used in dog-fighting ventures, such as:

  • Break sticks, which are used to pry open a dog’s mouth in order to release a hold that the dog has on another dog;
  • A stand often called a “rape rack,” or “breeder stand” as referred to by defendant Elliott, designed to hold a female dog off the ground and immobilize her while a male dog mounts her.  The device is used where the female dog is too dog-aggressive to mate otherwise;
  • A box containing veterinary medications, a skin stapler, numerous needles and syringes, catheters, IV bags and tubing, sutures and suture removing tools;
  • Testosterone boosting supplements, which are often used by dog fighters to increase muscle mass and aggression of dogs before a fight;
  • Dog pedigrees and printouts of dogs from dog fighting registries, including pedigrees related to the pit bull-type dogs found at his residence.

Elliott claimed ownership of several of the dog fighting paraphernalia found in his home and indicated that he and his family owned 10 of the 13 pit bull-type dogs found at his residence.

The counts of possession of an animal for participation in an animal fighting venture each carry a maximum potential penalty of up to five years in prison.

This case is part of Operation Grand Champion, a coordinated effort across numerous federal judicial districts to combat organized dog fighting.  The phrase “Grand Champion” is used by dog fighters to refer to a dog with more than five dog-fighting “victories.”

Operation Grand Champion is a continuing investigation by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Office of the Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge William G. Squires; Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Terence S. Opiola; and the FBI, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Timothy Gallagher, in coordination with the Department of Justice.

The government is represented by the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section Trial Attorneys Ethan Eddy and Shennie Patel and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jihee Suh and Kathleen O’Leary of the District of New Jersey.

The Humane Society of the Unites States is assisting with the care of the dogs seized by federal law enforcement.

The charges and allegations in the complaint are merely accusations and the defendant is considered innocent unless proven guilty.

Updated September 7, 2016