NJ dog-fighting trainer’s home had 13 pit bulls in dungeon and ‘rape rack,’ feds say
MILLVILLE — Police removed 13 pit bull-type dogs from the home of a Cumberland County man who was allegedly training the animals to fight.
The description that federal authorities provided of the home and its contents provides an inside look at the twisted world of dog fighting and its cruelties.
Robert A. Elliott Sr., 47, was arrested and charged with two counts of possessing pit bull-type dogs for the purpose of dog fighting. He was expected to appear in federal court on Wednesday, according to a statement by U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman.
The federal Animal Welfare Act makes dog fighting a felony. It is also a felony to possess, train, sell, buy, deliver, receive or transport dogs for the purpose of dog fighting.
Authorities say that on June 1, a search warrant was executed at a multi-acre property in Millville where Elliott resided along with another defendant, identified as Frank Nichols. When police searched the location, they found and seized 13 dogs, seven of which were being kept on heavy chains in a wooded area near the house, police said.
"The dogs were spaced so that they could not reach one another," Fishman said in a statement.
Investigators also found two more dogs in the wooded area that were being kept in pens, and three other pit bull-type dogs that were enclosed in shipping crates in an unfinished basement inside the house. On the first floor of the home, police found another dog inside a crate. According to authorities, that dog appeared to be ill.
Police say all of the dogs had untreated ailments and several of them had scars and other signs of injuries indicating that they had been used for dog fighting.
While searching the property, investigators also found objects indicating that the animals were being bred and trained to fight including break sticks, which authorities say are used "to pry open a dog’s mouth in order to release a hold that the dog has on another dog."
Police also found a stand referred to as a "rape rack," designed to immobilize a female dog during breeding, as well as a box filled with veterinary medications, needles, catheters, sutures, IV bags and a skin stapler. Authorities also found supplements to boost the dogs' testosterone and make them more aggressive.
In addition, authorities say police located printouts of dog pedigrees and printouts of dog fighting registries.
"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."
If convicted, police say Elliott could face up to five years in prison on each count of possessing a dog for the purpose of dog fighting.
The U.S. attorney says the arrest came as part of "Operation Grand Champion," a national crackdown on dog fighting
"The phrase Grand Champion is used by dog fighters to refer to a dog with more than five dog-fighting 'victories,'" Fishman said.
Dog fighting is being targeted by top law enforcement officials throughout the country, not just animal cruelty officials.
In June, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New Jersey announced the arrests of six state residents charged in connection with a dog-fighting ring that stretched from New Mexico to New Jersey.
The dogs that were seized from the property are being cared for the Humane Society of the United States. Their current condition is not known.
Toniann Antonelli is a social content producer for NJ 101.5. She can be reached at email@example.com, or on Twitter @ToniRadio1015.