Another 12 defendants who were convicted for their part in a multi-state dog fighting conspiracy were sentenced one day before the nation celebrated its anniversary of Independence, according to U.S. Attorney Craig Carpenito of the District of New Jersey and Assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Bossert Clark of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.
Justin Love, of Sewell, New Jersey, was sentenced to four-years in federal prison. The 39-year-old Love was previously convicted of one count of conspiracy to violate the animal fighting prohibitions of the federal Animal Welfare Act, six counts of possessing a dog intended for use in an animal fighting venture, and two counts of purchasing and receiving a dog intended for use in an animal fighting venture. He was convicted following a trial before U.S. District Judge Peter G. Sheridan, who imposed the sentence in Trenton federal court.
Meanwhile, 50-year-old Robert A. Elliott Sr., of Millville, New Jersey, and 46-year-old Dajwan Ware, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, were each sentenced in May 2019 to two years in prison. Both had been convicted of violating the Animal Welfare Act.
This latest round of prison sentencing ends the Justice Department’s Operation Grand Champion, a federal dog fighting investigation which began during the Obama administration in 2015 and resulted in the convictions of 12 defendants in four federal districts.
The term “Grand Champion” is used to refer to a dog with more than five dog fighting “victories.” As a result of this investigation, 113 dogs were rescued and either surrendered or forfeited to the government
“Dog fighting exacts a steep toll on animals, local animal shelters, charitable humane organizations, and the taxpayers of New Jersey,” U.S. Attorney Carpenito said. “We applaud our local and federal partners who worked so tirelessly to investigate this case and bring the offenders to justice.”
“Our justice system will not tolerate the torment and death of animals in the fighting ring, as the sentencings in this case demonstrate,” Assistant Attorney General Clark said. “Although this landmark case is over, we continue to place a high priority on pursuing and prosecuting illegal animal fighting ventures across the country.”
According to documents filed in these cases, statements made in court and the evidence at trial:
The defendants and their associates regularly fought dogs – including regularly to the death – and repeatedly trafficked in dogs with other dog fighters across several states so that those dogs could be used in dog fights. They also maintained significant numbers of fighting dogs and substantial dog fighting equipment such as dog treadmills, intravenous drug bags and lines, and “breeding stands” used to immobilize female dogs.
At Love’s residence, canine blood was found on the floor, walls, and ceiling of the basement, and Love had tried to set up a “class” for dog fighters to practice administering I.V. fluids to injured dogs, using live dogs as their practice subjects. Another defendant who previously pleaded guilty admitted that following a fight, his dog died in his car on the way home.
In addition to the prison term, Judge Peter Sheridan sentenced Love to three years of supervised release and fined him $9,000.