Philly Dawg: Dog docket 2/14

The USDA inspector who played a pivotal role bringing down Michael Vick’s brutal dog fighting ring says it’s too early to say whether Vick should have a pet one day

Special Agent Jim Knorr, speaking for the first time since being interviewed for Jim Gorant’s book,  “The Lost dogs,”  says he doesn’t know if Vick has changed and that only time will tell.

“I would hope he has but I don’t know. Only one person knows and that’s him,” Knorr told ESPN’s Outside the Lines.

“The only way the public is going to know if he’s sincere is to revisit it 5 to 8 years from now, when he’s not playing in the NFL and getting endorsements,” Knorr said. “Is he still going into the neighborhoods, preaching to the kids?

Knorr recalled one informaant saying Vick “got high” when he and others were killing dogs and how difficult it was as a dog owner himself to keep separate his love for his own dog and the heinous case of animal abuse he was charged with investigating, 

But praised Vick’s work off the field, speaking to inner city children about the evils of dog fighting.

“If he’s sincere or not, it doesn’t really matter because what he’s doing now, he’s doing a positive thing by speaking to kids in the community about his mistakes and telling them not to go there. What he’s doing is good for the public.”

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Dog fighting did not begin nor will it end with Michael Vick… three Philadelphia men got lengthy prison terms earlier this month for their role in a dog fighting ring, that also involved drugs and illegal weapons.

Ronald Williams Sr. plead guilty to animal fighting and multiple drug and weapons charges and was sentenced to prison for six to 12 years.

Ronald Williams Jr. and Michael Rains both plead guilty to conspiracy animal fighting and each received three to 23 months jail time and three years probation. All three are prohibited from owning animals while serving their sentences. The conviction and sentencing ends one of hundreds of dog fighting cases reported in the city each year. The case was heard by Common Pleas Court Judge Rosalyn Robinson.

The case stems from a 2008 incident when officers from the Pennsylvania SPCA responded to a call from an officer with the Philadelphia Police violent gun task force who was conducting an investigation at a house on the 400 block of Simpson Street.

Upon entering the property, Humane Law officers found six adult dogs and four puppies. All of the dogs were heavily chained or crated in unsanitary conditions without food or water. In addition, officers found significant evidence of dog fighting including chains, a treadmill, harnesses, poles, injectable substances and breeding records. The dogs were removed and taken to the PSPCA where they have been held in protective custody.

 “We applaud both Judge Robinson and Assistant District Attorney Pat Link for their commitment to justice for the animals involved in this case. Clearly these animals were exploited and suffered as part of a criminal operation,” said PSPCA CEO Susan Cosby. “We are proud of the work our officers do to fight cruelty, neglect and abuse in the city of Philadelphia, every single day.”

We do not know what has or will become of the dogs in this case. They were held for more than two years in kennels in a shelter with likely insufficient socialization, a fate that befalls many dogs and cats in abuse cases and, tragically, most pit bulls – like Vick’s – that were involved in dog fighting cases. 

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For the first time in almost two years, the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s office has filed suit against a dog breeder who sold sick puppies to unsuspecting customers.

Costanzo “Gus” Cerino, who ran Nacoma Kennel in Lehighton, with violating consumer protection laws (specifically the state’s “Puppy Lemon Law” for selling “malnourished” dogs who were in poor health because of sub-standard veterinary care and dogs with genetic defects.

Cerino had multiple run-ins with authorities long before he was hit with the suit last week.

In 2009 he was charged with 28 counts of animal abuse relating to several horses seized from his property. His kennel, where he bred beagles, Alaskan malamutes, basset hounds, boxers, cocker spaniels, German shepherds, Labrador retrievers, Rottweiler’s, Siberian huskies, beagles and others. Dogs ranged in price from $125 to $1,000, the suit said. 

Cerino housed more than 200 dogs at a time in his northeastern Pennsylvania kennel and sold well over 500 dogs a year.

Cerino received two solid years of negative inspection reports by dog wardens before the state finally pulled his license in 2010.

Among the inspection report notations: dogs standing in water, dogs standing on rusted and broken wire flooring, frozen water bowls, Veternary exams were ordered for dogs with matting and respiratory disease. The reports make clear Cerino made no attempt to improve conditions for the dogs despite repeated warnings and citations.

In addition, the suit notes Cerino was advertising AKC registered dogs when he had no affiliation with the registry. (The AKC last year ordered him to remove their seal from his website.)

The kennel’s website also falsely advertised the kennel was “PA Preferred, Registered Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.”

The lawsuit seeks more than $6,000 in consumer restitution and penalties up to $1,000 for every violation of the Consumer Protection Law.

Ryan’s office said consumers who believe they purchased a sick puppy from Nacoma Kennel should file complaints with the Bureau of Consumer Protection by calling 1-800-441-2555 to obtain a complaint form or by visiting http://www.attorneygeneral.gov to file electronically.

Whether the consumers will ever see restitution is another matter. Cerino’s property is for sale and he has reportedly left the state.