A Richmond Hill man has been charged with cruelty to animals after more than two dozen sick and injured pit bulls were housed in “dungeon-like conditions” at his home, according to Queens District Attorney Melinda Katz.
Andrew Cato, 59, was arraigned Tuesday, Aug. 17, before Queens Criminal Court Judge Denise Johnson on a 92-count criminal complaint charging him with aggravated animal cruelty including 35 counts of prohibition of animal fighting, 27 counts of failure to provide food and drink to impounded animals and 27 counts of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals and other charges.
Cato allegedly bred dogs for fighting, as evidenced by numerous dog bite scars and wounds to some of the 27 dogs and the retrieval of dogfighting paraphernalia, according to authorities.
According to the charges, on July 28, officers from the 102nd Precinct in Richmond Hill responded to neighbor complaints about barking dogs and bad smells emanating from a home located at 130-15 95th Ave. Cato directed an NYPD detective into a backyard garage where he observed 17 pit bull-type dogs inside the garage, which was poorly ventilated, had a very strong odor of feces and urine and was infested by flies.
The officer further observed that the dogs were housed individually inside concrete enclosures that were without proper bedding and soiled with urine and feces, according to Katz, who added that dirty water was available inside five of the enclosures.
Cato then took the officer to the basement, where she observed 10 additional pit bull-like dogs also individually housed in concrete enclosures. The area did not have fans or air conditioners, was extremely hot and humid and had minimal air ventilation. The paper bedding inside the enclosures were all soiled with urine and feces, and only five of the enclosures had food, which was contaminated with the urine and feces.
A breeding stand and three “break sticks” were observed and allegedly recovered from the location by the detective. A breeding stand is typically used to immobilize the female to prevent the pit bulls from fighting when breeding. A break stick is a device inserted behind the dog’s molar to force the jaws apart and loosen the grip of a bite.
“Pets and animals are meant to be protected and nurtured. In Queens, I will hold accountable those who choose to abuse them instead,” Katz said.
ASPCA veterinary and behavior experts conducted forensic exams on the dogs and determined that they all suffered from pain and discomfort due to various medical ailments. They had dirty, stained, malodorous hair coats from living in a filthy environment with prolonged contact to urine and feces as well as lack of adequate grooming.
ASPCA forensic exams revealed that some of the dogs had injuries consistent with dogfighting, including scarring.
The ASPCA assisted in the rescue and removal of all the dogs and continues to provide ongoing medical and behavioral treatment and enrichment.
“Working collaboratively with the NYPD and the Queens district attorney’s office to rescue these dogs, provide them with essential medical and behavioral treatment from ASPCA experts, and hold their alleged abusers accountable, represent how our partnership with the NYPD continue to prioritize and elevate animal welfare throughout New York City,” ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement Vice President Howard Lawrence said. “Animal cruelty — including dogfighting — happens every day in every corner of the country, and we are committed to stopping this form of barbaric abuse and helping animals in crisis.”
Judge Johnson ordered Cato to return to court on Sept. 8. If convicted, he faces up to four years in prison.