A 40-year-old Golden Gate man has been arrested after deputies found evidence of dogfighting at his home.
Rafael Jesus Del-Valle-Jomarron turned himself in Friday afternoon, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
Del-Valle-Jomarron faces four counts of animal cruelty causing cruel death, pain or suffering, one count of animal fighting and one count of selling, possessing or using equipment for fighting or baiting, the sheriff’s office said.
Detectives say Del-Valle-Jomarron is described by deputies as a convicted felon who operated a dogfighting ring in his home in the 2100 block of 52nd Lane of Golden Gate.
The investigation began June 9 after deputies learned of possible animal abuse at the home. Deputies observed multiple dogs with apparent injuries in metal cages in Del-Valle-Jomarron’s backyard, deputies said.
Deputies also found multiple roosters with injuries and lost feathers and an above-ground pool filled with sawdust which they say is used as a baiting device.
Those who live nearby say that they were surprised to see this happen in their neighborhood.
“It’s a quiet neighborhood, you know, everybody talks to everybody, you know,” said Angel Mendoza.
Another neighbor didn’t want to be named because they believe they could have ties to one of the injured animals.
“Last July we were outside, I just came home from work and two little puppies came running down the street and we were playing with them. My teenage daughter actually saw an ad on Facebook for two puppies that were lost and it turned out that they lived really close to us,” the neighbor said.
That neighbor said they never actually saw anything out of the ordinary with the animals.
“No, nothing. Not even the day that we returned the puppies. There was like nothing out of the ordinary that I would say there’s something sketchy going on.”
Six female bull terriers, one female hound dog, two male bull terriers, and an injured rooster were seized by authorities. Two of the dogs were pregnant.
Authorities also found steroids for animals, the sheriff’s office said.
One of the dogs found had 249 scars and wounds while another had 109 scars, the sheriff’s office said.
The animals were examined and cared for by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and will remain in the care of Collier County Domestic Animal Services.
“These innocent animals endured repeated torturous abuse, suffering and pain,” Collier County Sheriff Kevin Rambosk said in a statement. “We are pleased that we, along with our partners with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Collier County Domestic Animal Services, have delivered them to a safe and healing environment and are bringing their abuser to justice.”
Del-Valle-Jomarron remains in Collier County Jail.