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Press Release

New Mexico Man Sentenced to Four Years in Prison for Role in Multi-State Dog Fighting Conspiracy

For Immediate Release
Office of Public Affairs

Robert Arellano, 65, of Albuquerque, New Mexico, was sentenced today in federal court in Trenton, New Jersey, to a total of four years in prison for his role in a multi-state dog fighting conspiracy. Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division and U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito of the District of New Jersey made the announcement.

A jury previously convicted Arellano of one felony count of conspiracy to violate the animal fighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, and two felony counts of selling, transporting, and delivering dogs intended for use in an animal fighting venture. Arellano also pleaded guilty to three felony counts of possessing a dog intended for use in an animal fighting venture in a related federal case in New Mexico that was consolidated with his New Jersey case for sentencing. Judge Peter G. Sheridan presided over the trial and imposed the sentence, which includes three years’ supervised release following Arellano’s term of imprisonment.

Three other defendants were convicted as part of the same jury trial; two defendants will be sentenced on May 29, 2019, and the third defendant will be sentenced on May 30, 2019. 

“Animal fighting for sport is not an activity a civilized country tolerates,” said Assistant Attorney General Clark. “Our Division will continue to pursue and prosecute illegal animal fighting ventures across the country.”

“Dog fighting is vicious and cruel. Beyond the needless suffering it inflicts on animals, it exacts a toll on local animal shelters, humane organizations, and the taxpayers of New Jersey,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “As today’s sentencing shows, if you fight dogs in New Jersey, you will face prosecution and imprisonment.”

“Dogfighting for entertainment and profit is the organized and heinous business of breeding and conditioning dogs to fight each other until one dog kills the other,” said U.S. Attorney John C. Anderson for the District of New Mexico.  “Today’s sentencing brings to an end Mr. Arellano’s 30 years in this unconscionable business, and hopefully will deter others who seek to profit from forcing animals fight to the death.  In New Mexico, we will continue to seek out and punish those who exploit and abuse animals.”

According to trial evidence and court documents filed in connection with the cases, the defendant and his associates regularly fought dogs – including to the death – and repeatedly trafficked in dogs with other dog fighters across several states for the purpose of dog fighting. Arellano and the other defendants also maintained significant numbers of fighting dogs and substantial dog fighting equipment, such as dog treadmills, intravenous drug bags and lines, “breeding stands” used to immobilize female dogs, and chains weighing up to several pounds per linear foot. A defendant who pleaded guilty to charges in a related case admitted that his dog died in his car on the way home after a dog fight. Evidence at trial showed that dog deaths from fighting were a common outcome. Another defendant convicted at trial attempted to set up a “class” for dog fighters to practice administering I.V. fluids to injured dogs, using live dogs as their practice subjects.

“The provisions of the Animal Welfare Act were designed to protect animals from being used in illegal fighting ventures, which often entail other forms of criminal activity involving drugs, firearms and gambling,” said Special Agent in Charge Bethanne M. Dinkins for U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General. “Together with the Department of Justice, animal fighting is an investigative priority for USDA-OIG, and we will work with our law enforcement partners to investigate and assist in the criminal prosecution of those who participate in animal fighting ventures.”

“Dog fighting, far from being any kind of ‘sport’, shows a complete disregard for animals and is both despicable and cruel,” said Brian Michael, Special Agent in Charge, Homeland Security Investigations, Newark. “HSI will continue to cooperate with our local, state and national partners, as happened here, to investigate such crimes so the perpetrators can be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”

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.” To date, eleven defendants from five states have been convicted and sentenced to a total of 164 months in prison as part of Operation Grand Champion. Additionally, 113 dogs have been rescued, and either surrendered or forfeited to the government. The government is represented by Trial Attorney Ethan Eddy of the Justice Department’s Environmental Crimes Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathleen O’Leary. The case is being investigated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture – Office of Inspector General, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security – Homeland Security Investigations, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Updated April 4, 2024

Animal Welfare
Press Release Number: 19-320