Editor's note: This story contains extremely graphic details about the mistreatment of animals.
“Zip ’em up, zip ’em up, another one dead,” a Vineland man bragged about his dog in a phone call intercepted as part of an investigation into an alleged dogfighting ring centered in Cumberland County.
Tee Tee, a 34-pound, “pit bull-type” dog, had just won her fight, Lydell Harris, 30, told someone identified only as “Associate 1” in the Oct. 26 phone call.
Nine people were arrested in April and 66 dogs rescued as part of the investigation. Harris is one of four Cumberland County residents arrested in the case that reached to Albuquerque, New Mexico. At least 20 dogs — including five puppies with their mother — were found April 4 at the Asbury Park, Monmouth County, home of a man who had been convicted Feb. 9, 2015, of several counts of animal cruelty and barred from owning dogs.
The case is on hold in the courts until Aug. 31, to give attorneys time to go over the evidence and work on a defense.
Until then, court documents give insight into the allegedly torturous training to turn dogs into killers and make money for their handlers and those betting on them. Breeders use treadmills and other equipment to train the dogs, drugs to strengthen them and medical equipment to patch them up so as not to draw attention through veterinary visits, according to the investigation by a special agent from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In phone calls intercepted as part of the investigation, the breeders bragged about how their dogs tore up other dogs in the ring.
“The throat work was impeccable,” Harris says in the Oct. 26 call. “Every time that dog went down, she was pushing carpet in her throat, bro. I’m talking about pushing from one side of the floor to the other side, all throat ... she hit a bleeder from the rip.”
In another call, Vineland resident Anthony Gaines told Associate 1 about Doublecross, a 37-pound dog described as a “1xW DIB,” which means he had at least one win and his opponent was killed, or “dead in the box.”
Doublecross “shredded the dog’s face super bad,” Gaines says in the call, according to the complaint. “I ain’t never seen no (expletive) like that before, where he popped the (expletive) neck. Like, he popped his neck. Like, it just sounded like, you know, how a ball, like the air sucked out of a ball. ... That (expletive) was as stiff as a doorknob.”
Before the other dog died, Gaines administered drugs intravenously, he tells co-defendant Justin Love in another intercepted call.
Love, 36, of Westville, had been convicted on animal cruelty charges in Monmouth County Municipal Court earlier last year. He told Gaines that a man was going to do an eight-hour class on tending to the dogs.
“He’s going to teach us how to IV dogs, how to hit veins, how to do everything,” Love says in the Oct. 14, call. “All we got (to do is) pay him and we go to bring a dog each to work on.”
But Gaines says he already knew how to do IVs.
The next month, Gaines’ Vineland home was searched, and police found six dogs, all in separate shipping crates stacked in his unfinished basement. They were scarred, aggressive and displayed behavior consistent with physical abuse, the investigator wrote.
Also there was a 6-foot-long treadmill-like device with a clip at the front like those used to fasten to a dog’s collar. Animal pelts, often used to bait the dogs, were found nearby, along with weighted collars, syringes, medical vials, surgical instruments, a skin stapler, bandages and medications.
Gaines, 35, knew his Vineland home was being investigated, according to calls he made to co-defendants outside the state. Animal cruelty officers had left a warning letter at his property.
So he made some calls, and on Oct. 30, he set out on a road trip with Frank Nichols, 39, of Millville, to get rid of three dogs.
Gaines’ girlfriend, Tiffany Burt, rented the car Gaines drove. He and Nichols got to Fort Wayne, Indiana, on Oct. 31, where co-defendant Dajwan Ware took Bubbles. The next day, the two Cumberland County men got to Chicago, where Tommy and Sampson were given to co-defendant Pedro Cuellar in exchange for two puppies.
Those puppies were among the six dogs taken from the Vineland home.
Weeks earlier, Harris told Associate 1 in a phone call that he kept his dogs in a 12-foot shed, which kept them out of view.
When the “SPCA came ... they couldn’t do nothing,” he says in the call, according to the investigator. “They can’t touch (the dogs). They can’t even go in to look at them. They can’t get a warrant to mess with them. Nothing. They can’t rescue the dogs.”
Gaines remains jailed after consenting to no bail. Most of the others, including Burt and Harris, are free on $100,000 bond.
Harris, whose nickname is Sin, is prohibited from having dogs, according to court documents, with the exception of a bulldog named Truck.