(BIDWELL, Ohio) — An Ohio man has been sentenced to more than a decade in prison after it was discovered he was running a dogfighting ring from his residence where he kept more than 50 dogs, according to authorities.
Law enforcement first investigated 40-year-old Michael Valentine of Bidwell, Ohio, in 2019 after a dog attacked a small child who was living with him, according to a press release from the Department of Justice detailing the case against Valentine.
“That investigation led to a search warrant of the Valentine’s residence and the seizure of 40 dogs,” authorities said. “The search also recovered numerous items of dog fighting paraphernalia, including treadmills, veterinary supplies and dogfighting videos.”
However, three years later on March 8, 2022, a second search was carried out at Valentine’s property — this time as part of a fentanyl distribution investigation — and the search revealed Valentine had kept more dog fighting paraphernalia, as well as two assault-style rifles, the DOJ said.
“In addition, a search of a nearby parcel of land revealed 677 grams of fentanyl and 69 grams of cocaine packaged for distribution, and an additional 11 dogs, which Valentine was keeping for purposes of dogfighting,” officials said. “Valentine had previously sold 141 grams of fentanyl from the property.”
Valentine previously pleaded guilty to two counts of raising and training dogs for the purpose of fighting and five counts related to fentanyl distribution and was sentenced on Friday to serve 10 years in prison for the drug distribution charge and five years of supervised release. In total, Valentine will serve 11 years in prison followed by five years of supervised release, authorities said.
“Dogfighting is a barbaric offense that cruelly harms animals and endangers the surrounding community,” said Assistant Attorney General Todd Kim of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division. “Today’s sentencing demonstrates that those engaged in this horrific practice face significant punishment.”
“Valentine’s crimes endangered both humans and dogs,” said U.S. Attorney Kenneth L. Parker for the Southern District of Ohio. “Thanks to the work of our investigative partners, hundreds of grams of fentanyl were taken out of circulation before reaching our local communities and more than 50 dogs were removed from the defendant. It is appropriate that Valentine will spend a significant amount of time in federal prison.”
This investigation was conducted as part of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Forces initiative, which seeks to identify, disrupt and dismantle criminal organizations “using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach,” the DOJ said.
“The relevant provisions of the Animal Welfare Act were designed to protect animals from being used in illegal fighting ventures, which often entail other forms of criminal activity including drug trafficking and illegal possession of firearms,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert J. Springer of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General (USDA-OIG). “The USDA-OIG thanks the Justice Department, who prosecuted the case, and Gallia County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI for their assistance with the investigation.”
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