Dogfighter Gets 30 Years!
- RECORD SENTENCE FOR DOGFIGHTING MASTERMIND
On Monday (11/22), convicted South Carolina dogfighting mastermind
David Tant was handed the strictest sentence ever given for
dogfighting: thirty years in prison.
Circuit Judge Wyatt Saunders pronounced the sentence after Tant
pleaded guilty to 41 counts of dogfighting, following a raid on
Tant's property last April in which investigators seized dogfighting
paraphernalia and 47 pit bulls. The raid came after a surveyor was
shot and injured by a booby-trapped gun on the property. For that
offense, Tant was convicted of assault and battery and received ten
years in addition to his 30 for dogfighting.
Tant's conviction marks a major victory in the fight against illegal,
organized dogfighting. David Tant has long been associated with
dogfighting groups and is well-known as one of the biggest breeders
of fighting dogs in the world, selling dogs nationally and
internationally. Said South Carolina Attorney General Henry McMaster,
who prosecuted the case under his newly-created, statewide,
dogfighting task force, "This sends a message to dog fighters and
people who would participate in this vicious, brutal activity that
there are consequences for their actions."
Dog fighting moving from urban to rural
November 24, 2004
By WALLACE McBRIDE
Index-Journal senior staff writer
Over the last few years, organizers of underground dog fights have
been slowly relocating matches away from the light of big cities.
While this is good news for South Carolina's scattered urban areas,
rural parts of the state could soon be dealing with an influx of
people looking to find new arenas for illegal bloodsports bringing
with them crimes peripheral to underground dog fighting.
Charleston veterinarian Robert Carlson evaluated dozens of pit bulls
confiscated in April from David Tant, believed to be the nation's No.
2 breeder and trainer of fighting pit bulls.
While the coast has no monopoly on illegal animal fights, those who
operated there have steadily been forced to find less-visible arenas,
Carlson said. "There aren't really too many places to have a fight in
Charleston anymore," he said.
It's a similar story in Greenwood and the Lakelands, said Greenwood
Police Chief Gerald Brooks. "It's a little more difficult to do
dogfighting here inside the city because of the density of the
population," Brooks said. "But it has happened. We have made several
arrests in the last several years and have confiscated some dogs in
These arrests have involved people who were both breeding and
training dogs for fights, he said, but charges have been sparse
only three or four cases made in as many years.
Animal shelters are often a first stop for people looking to get into
dogfighting sport, said Karen Pettay, executive director of the
Humane Society of Greenwood.
"People come in looking for `pits,' but when they find out pets have
to be spayed or neutered before they leave our facility they
immediately lose interest," Pettay said.
Pit bulls are not naturally prone to violence, but the subculture of
animal fighting is not only beginning to corrupt the animal's image,
but it's bloodline as well.
Carlson said pit bulls, even those trained for violent bloodsport,
are still affectionate toward people. "They just don't like other
dogs," he said. "But I've never seen any pit bulls like those in
Because of demand for descendants of Tant's past champion fighters,
his dogs had become intensely inbred. Workers at the shelter were
forced to deal with dangerous dogs that seemed to have no need for
interaction with any other animal human or otherwise. "It's a
horrible business of using animals as objects," Pettay said. "Pit
bulls are some of the sweetest animals you'll ever meet and they turn
them into killing machines it's ruining the breed."
The S.C. Attorney General's Office has formed a task force to handle
dogfighting cases, and has found fighters operating on three basic
levels in the state. "You've got the top professional level, who
breed dogs and fight dogs and make money on it," said William Frick,
a state prosecutor. "You've got an intermediate level with people who
have several dogs and would like to advance to the professional level
one day. And then you've got the low-level street people and street
fighting people who get a dog for a status symbol."
Some street-level dogfighters are in it for prestige, Carlson said,
but most who participate do so for profit. Often the most brutal
matches have the highest payoff.
"The rules can be set at the beginning of the fight, and can be
variable on the scope of the fight," Carlson said. "There are fights
that can be terminated after one dog turns, or you can have fights
that are terminated when a dog is dead. The last thing of any
importance is the dog. It's all about the money."
Frick said the state's effort to prosecute dogfighting is part of a
broader effort to remedy the state's "culture of violence." The
activity is usually at the center of other crimes, such as drug
dealing, domestic violence and gambling, he said.
Pit bulls that find their way to the county animal shelter often bear
the subculture's grim fashions, Pettay said. "Even if the person is
not using the dog for fights, you know it's still a status thing,"
she said. "You see them with their ears cropped off the less the
other dogs can grab the better, which is why they shave the ears off."
"Whether it's game fighting or dogfighting, you have the gambling
aspect and the alcohol aspect, and you have the drug aspect it all
runs together," said Greenwood County Sheriff-elect Dan Wideman. "We
don't want that in our community."
Monday, the state struck its first major blow against dogfighting
when Tant was sentenced to 30 years in prison for multiple counts of
criminal animal fighting, and for creating a booby trap that injured
a railroad surveyor on his property.
"Not enough states catch enough people to really send a message,"
Carlson said. "Most of the guys get away. It's so well organized and
so hard to catch in the act."
Wallace McBride covers Greenwood and general assignments in the
Lakelands. He can be reached at 223-1812 or wmcbride @ indexjournal.