DA: West Hempstead man charged with promoting dogfighting

Hector Hernandez, 26, of West Hempstead, has been

Hector Hernandez, 26, of West Hempstead, has been arrested and faces up to 1 year in prison and tens of thousands of dollars in fines after being charged with suspicion of promoting dogfighting, Nassau County prosecutors said. Eight dogs were found on his property "with scars on their face, neck and ears consistent with bite wounds, some with bite marks," prosecutors said. (Jan. 16, 2014) (Credit: NCDA)

A West Hempstead man was arraigned Friday in a dogfighting case after eight scarred pit bulls were found at his home, kept in a "wall of cages," Nassau prosecutors said.

Hector Hernandez, 26, was arrested at his home on Pinebrook Avenue on Thursday after a call to the district attorney's animal crimes tip line.

When investigators arrived, they found a two-room shed, the size of a single-car garage, and inside were dogs housed in two rows of cages, said prosecutor Jed Painter, head of the district attorney's animal crimes unit.

"It was a shut-up shed with lots of animals in it, including chickens and rabbits," he said. "It was very, very messy, very strong odor."

All the dogs had facial, neck and ear scars that are consistent with bite wounds, prosecutors said, but two had fresh bite marks on their front sides.

"Blood was still there, and not dried blood either," Painter said."It was all in the face, in the neck, in the ears, in the front paws."

Those two, Roja and Nana, were sickly, underweight with bones visible, overgrown nails and open wounds, authorities said.

They, along with the other pit bulls -- Little Red, Brownie, Sassy, Scorpio, Honey and Thor -- were taken to an unnamed shelter. The chickens and rabbit were taken to Hempstead Town's animal shelter.

At the property, investigators seized dogfighting paraphernalia, including heavy restraint chains and a modified treadmill with a wooden frame and dog tether that forces the pit bulls to run. There also was a training stick with a stuffed animal attached, which can be used to prod a dog to fight and bite, prosecutors said.

Hernandez was charged with nine counts of prohibition of animal fighting and two of failure to provide proper sustenance to the dogs. Hernandez, whose bail was set at $2,500, faces up to 1 year in jail on each count and $15,000 per dog in fines.

He was represented by legal aid, which did not return a call and emails.

"There will be serious consequences for those who show the utmost disregard for the animals under their care," District Attorney Kathleen Rice said a news release.

All those charges are misdemeanors, and District Attorney Kathleen Rice said she's been pushing for state bills that would move animal abuse, including dogfighting, from the agricultural law section into the penal code. That would toughen sentences, she said.

No regulation-size dogfighting pit was found at the scene, but the investigation continues, including whether the property was regularly used to train dogs to fight.

Painter said it's unclear whether the dogs will become "living casualties" of the illegal trade and be put down. In partnership with the ASPCA, an animal behavior expert is expected to be flown in next week to evaluate the dogs, he said.

"It can break in our favor as evidence," the prosecutor said, "but you need to know what the future of these animals are. You try to save as many as you can."

Tips can be sent to AnimalCrimesUnit@nassauda.org and 516-571-2245.

With Bridget Murphy and John Valenti

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