BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Animal rights activists protested in front of Buffalo City Court Friday to draw attention to the case against a man accused of running a dog fighting enterprise.
Fifty-two-year-old Edward Bishop is the alleged mastermind behind the dog fighting enterprise.
“We’re here to, basically in support of Buffalo Police, in support of the task force. To basically ensure that now that we’re at this point, that Bishop is prosecuted to the full extent of the law. That he gets prison time, not probation, not anything else, not what he got last time around,” said Matthew Albert, an attorney and animal advocate.
Animal rights activists are angry because Bishop was also accused of dog fighting in 2009. He was found guilty of sponsoring an animal in a fight, but in 2010, was sentenced to 30 days time served and two years of supervised release with six months of electronic monitoring.
“One of the bigger problems is that too often government likes to turn a blind eye to it because if hey if people don’t know about it then we don’t have to acknowledge it’s a problem and people wouldn’t be happy that dogs are being torn apart,” said Albert.
Bishop is also accused of unlawfully imprisoning a man on and off for two years to force him to participate in the dog fighting ring.
According to the criminal complaints, Bishop held the man against his will at a home on Hewitt Avenue, forcing this man to take care of his fighting dogs and the property. The man told officers that when he tried to leave about seven months ago, Bishop broke his arm in two places. For the last two months, he told police, he has been unable to leave the house or seek medical attention for several medical issues.
Court documents say that police found seven pit bulls, some with scarring on their faces, at the Hewitt Avenue property. Inside the house were “four treadmills, drugs, an IV bag, syringes, dietary supplements, breaksticks, a ‘springpole,’ training harness, heavy chains, animal fighting literature and dog breeding documents.”
Bishop was one of at least five people arrested April 25 in a major raid in Buffalo and Grand Island led by a newly-formed anti-dog fighting task force. He is charged with animal fighting for amusement, unlawful imprisonment, reckless endangerment, second-degree assault and criminal possession of controlled substance (cocaine).
Outside court Friday, activist Robin Donovan told News 4, “Right now, the community is very concerned. And we’re out here making sure that people are being held accountable for their actions. Far too long, it’s gone untouched… This culture of dog fighting needs to be completely eradicated.”
That is precisely the reason the task force, comprised of area law enforcement, prosecutors, and the SPCA Serving Erie County, is redoubling its efforts to go after dog fighting rings.
“Dog fighting has been going on. It’s not like this hasn’t been going on; it’s not like there have never been this many dogs involved. There have been,” said Gina Browning, the SPCA’s Director of Public Relations. “The problem is, it is such a clandestine industry. This is something that’s covert, it’s run by people who are very familiar with the law. These are smart people, unfortunately, who stay ahead of us.”
Browning encouraged people who suspect dog fighting to call the SPCA or the police.
“People weren’t even aware that it was happening right here in Buffalo. They were thinking New York City, L.A., Chicago. So it is completely foreign to many of the people of Erie County and in Buffalo. What we tell people is, look for anything unusual. Sometimes you get that gut feeling… If they see carcasses in the yard, that’s obvious evidence. If they see unusual people coming in and out at all hours of the night, that’s a sign that something may be going on.”
Though some 10 witnesses were ready in court on Friday, Bishop’s felony hearing was postponed.
He is due back in court May 7.