Arrested, Owners Of House
Is Facing Multiple Counts
By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to www.AllOTSEGO.com
COOPERSTOWN – A little late for Valentine’s Day, but now you can take home Dove, Snickers, Hershey, Sweetie, Maple and Honey.
“Jim Fitzgerald of Alpha Dog Consulting came in and assessed the dogs,” said Stacie Haynes, executive director, Susquehanna Animal Shelter, who took in six of the “Franklin 20” pit bulls after they were rescued from a Franklin home. “He said they were great and that they’re ready for adoption.”
On Friday, Feb. 15, Nasir Azmat, 41, was arrested and charged with 41 counts of animal fighting and cruelty charges for the 18 pit bulls and German Shepherds seized from the Franklin house.
“Although there was no evidence of dog fighting at that location, the injuries and scars, as well as equipment found at the scene, is consistent for training canines for fighting-related activities,” said Delaware County Sheriff Craig DuMond.
In all, Azmat was charged with 20 counts of possessing animals with the intent to engage in fighting, one count of owning animal fighting paraphernalia and 20 counts of overdriving, torturing or injuring an animal.
According to Delaware County District Attorney John Hubbard, the torturing charge carries up to a year in prison on each count, while possession of fighting paraphernalia carries a 90-day sentence. Owning an animal to fight is only a 15-day sentence on each count.
“We will not tolerate animal abuse here,” said Erin Insinga, shelter director, Delaware Valley Humane Society, who initially reported the claim that dogs were being abused at the Franklin home. “The voices of the Franklin 20 will not go unheard.”
In addition to the abuse charges, the Town of Franklin also charged him with 19 counts of harboring an unlicensed dog. Azmat was issued appearance tickets, and DuMond said that the investigation will continue as they look into where Azmat took the dogs to fight.
“We’re working with law enforcement partners across the state into possible locations where the dogs might have been trained for,” he said.
Both DuMond and Trooper Aga Dembinska, Troop C Public Information Officer, said that this is the first dog fighting case they had seen in the area. Otsego County Sheriff Richard J. Devlin Jr. said that there was one case, but that it was long enough ago that he couldn’t say when.
“That’s what makes it so scary,” said Haynes. “This was so well hidden.”
But it’s not unheard of state wide. In December, Evans “Hustle” Fuentes, Edward “Big Myke” Johnson and Benito Gittens were all arrested and charged with animal abuse in the Bronx after police allegedly discovered that they were training dogs – 29 were seized – to fight.
Haynes took six of the pit bulls; however, three of the Franklin 20 – a German shepherd and two pit bulls at the Broome County Humane Society – were euthanized for severe behavioral issues that would make them dangerous to humans.
“One of the pit bulls was hanging from the top of her chain link kennel by her teeth,” said Haynes. “The minute a dog does that, it says that they will attack.”
But the six she has, she said, all have sweet temperaments – like the candies they’re named for – and will thrive with their new owners.
“Dove is very sweet and wants to be petted all the time, and Hershey came out of his shell very quickly,” she said. “Sweetie and Snickers, the puppies, are very friendly and outgoing.”
Maple and Honey, both females, are still stand-offish, and Haynes hopes to get them into homes where their owner can give them constant reassurance.
“We believe they’re safe, but they’re still scared,” she said.
She said people have already been calling and emailing about the dogs, and stressed that they will need to be in houses with no small children or other pets, and with an owner that either works from home or is retired.
“We understand that it will take very special people to match with these dogs,” she said.