When Buffalo police responded to a call of a burglary in progress last December at an East Side home, they found no intruders, just a resident in her upstairs bedroom convinced someone was in the house.
But they found four dogs.
One, which had facial scars and a bloody flesh wound, was in a feces-filled cage near a hot water tank.
They also found three treadmills for dogs, weights and other items that raised their suspicions that a dog-fight training operation was going on at the Erb Street house.
The resident’s husband, a cellblock attendant for the Buffalo Police Department, was arrested later that day on felony dog-fighting charges after he returned home from work.
Shanon Richardson, 34, has been suspended from his job.
He faces three felony counts of promoting animal fighting, two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and one misdemeanor count of prohibition of animal fighting in connection with fight-training equipment recovered from his home Dec. 7.
Richardson, free on $7,500 bail, has pleaded innocent.
He appeared in court this week with his attorneys, Jorge S. de Rosas and J. Michael Marion, for a hearing before State Supreme Court Justice Christopher J. Burns, who will decide whether prosecutors can use evidence seized from his home and his statements to police.
Three witnesses called by Assistant District Attorneys G. Michael Drmacich and Justin T. Wallens testified about what happened that day at the Richardson home.
Officer Paul Fitzpatrick said he and his partner, Officer Joseph Wendel, were on patrol at around 4 a.m. when they responded to the burglary call.
After entering the home, Fitzpatrick he said he found a pit bull on the first floor. He put the dog in a room while looking for an intruder.
Finding no one on the first floor, the officer went to the basement where he said he found the pit bull inside the feces-filled dog cage.
He also noticed blood on the hot water tank, three treadmills about 4 feet high, each with chains to attach to a dog’s collar, as well as more cages, two dog harnesses, weights and a break stick for keeping the dogs in check, he said.
“I believe the dogs were being trained and used for dog-fighting,” said Fitzpatrick, who has investigated other dog-fighting operations.
The officer said a third dog was found chained in a doghouse in the backyard, while another chained dog, which he described as very thin, was in a doghouse in the garage.
Lt. Jeffrey Giallella testified that after police entered the house, Richardson’s wife came downstairs and asked the officers to search the property for any intruder.
He said Fitzpatrick called him to the basement, where he saw the caged dog, treadmills and weights. He said he notified a police inspector, and the SPCA was called to the scene.
Giallella testified that Mrs. Richardson called her husband, and he told her the officers should leave if there was no intruder and they had no search warrant.
The lieutenant said he told her that they were investigating something else and they would get a search warrant.
When Richardson arrived, Giallella asked him about the dogs and items in the basement. Richardson told him he trains dogs for shows and had won ribbons.
“Everything I have is legal,” Richardson said, according to Giallella.
He said Richardson told him that he used the treadmills to exercise the dogs because he didn’t have time to walk them.
The lieutenant said he placed Richardson in the back seat of the patrol car but didn’t read him his Miranda rights because he was not under arrest. He took him to the Northeast District police station where he was arrested later that day.
The dogs were turned over to the SPCA Serving Erie County.
Amy Jaworksi, the SPCA’s director of animal cruelty investigations and admissions, testified that after police obtained a search warrant, she searched the kitchen, where she found a second refrigerator filled with food and dietary supplements for dogs.
Besides the treadmills, weights and dog collars in the basement, she said she found two break sticks, dog pedigree paperwork, vitamin supplements, syringes, a video recorder and a scheduling notebook as well as other items.
She said the items and the heavily scarred dog in the basement convinced her police had discovered a dog-fight training operation.
She said the SPCA removed the four dogs, which were later turned over to the Buffalo Animal Shelter. She said she was aware that one of the dogs went missing from the shelter, but she didn’t know who has the dog.