An Orange County man will spend at least five years in prison after a jury convicted him of dogfighting and others crimes Wednesday.
Daniel Isiah Crew, 42, was found guilty of 11 counts of dogfighting, three counts of felony cruelty to animals, 14 counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals and two counts of restraining dogs in a cruel manner.
He was sentenced to a minimum of five years and a maximum of 10 1/2 years in prison with a three-year probationary period after his release, during which he will not be allowed to own any dogs.
Crew was charged with 30 counts of dogfighting and other offenses in March 2018 after authorities seized 30 dogs, parts of an alleged dog-fighting pit and treadmills for exercising the dogs at 9316 N.C. 57 in the Rougemont community of northern Orange County.
The roughly two-week trial focused on photos of the dogs, the conditions they were kept in, Crew’s financial records and phone call recordings.
The photos showed the dogs had scars on their faces, their front paws and legs and were weighed down by large chains. Experts testified that their injuries were consistent with dogfighting. Many of the dogs also had worms and babesia, a tick-borne parasite.
The jury, composed of five men and five women, found Crew guilty on 30 of the 41 counts against him.
Of the 30 dogs seized, 22 were euthanized because they were considered too dangerous to enter society. The eight remaining dogs found new homes.
Care for the dogs cost Orange County Animal Services about $92,500, according to Animal Services Director, Bob Marotto, who said he was very satisfied with the verdict and the sentencing.
“It conveys to the community that there is no tolerance for these forms of animal cruelty,” he said.
‘Sorry for what I did’
In sentencing Crew, Superior Court Judge Carl Fox said: “My heart pains for the photos I saw of these dogs. ... I have a dog. I walk my dog every morning.”
Crew apologized but did not admit to dogfighting. His attorney Robert Myrick said he will appeal Wednesday’s verdict.
“I am sorry for what I did,” Crew said in court. “I was just trying to breed my dogs.”
Crew hugged his wife outside the courthouse before the verdict. According to his attorneys, he has two children in college and two in high school.
Bite wounds, scars
Dog fighting is a felony in all 50 states. Being a spectator and possessing dogs for the purpose of fighting are felonies in North Carolina.
The dogs, often pitbulls, are given drugs to enhance performance, and their ears and tails are cropped. They are made to wear chains and run on treadmills to build up strength.
Owners set their dogs to fight to fight in a pit that typically measures 14 to 20 square feet. Fights may last minutes, or even hours, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
The fights lead to puncture wounds, blood loss and broken bones. Owners sometimes kill losing dogs they consider an embarrassment, according to the ASPCA.
Some dog fight raids have resulted in seizures of more than $500,000.
Because of the secretive, underground nature of dogfighting, it is difficult to estimate the number of people involved in dogfighting, according to Jennifer Chin, the vice president of the ASPCA legal advocacy.
“In the past nine years, the ASPCA has assisted law enforcement with more than 200 dogfighting cases in at least 24 states impacting approximately 5,000 canine victims,” she told The News & Observer and The Herald-Sun in an emailed statement.
Michael Vick case
An investigation in 2007 revealed details of a dogfighting operation at a property in Virginia owned by former NFL star quarterback, Michael Vick.
The operation was called Bad Newz Kennels and trained over 50 pittbulls, some of which were executed based on their performance. Many people gambled at the fights.
New laws and penalties for animal cruelty and dogfighting were enacted after Vick’s case, according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund.