There is another dog fighting arrest this week, though with an added chilling twist of the involvement of children. Shane Santiago and his wife Laura Acampora are charged with endangering the welfare of children in addition to animal cruelty charges because they were raising five children in the rented home while dogfighting was going on in the basement. The children are with other family members and presumably officials have inquired into whether or how other family members were not aware of this large operation before handing over the children. In a twisted irony, police found a copy of parenting magazine in this house of horrors.
Chester County DA Tom Hogan reportedly choked back tears in describing the horrific scene in the house. Police says that several dead pit bulls were found along the road — a common sign of a dogfighting ring operating in the area. Santiago came up on the radar screen as part of a drug investigation in Coatesville. The police found a house with blood-caked walls and carpets. Electrical wires were used to kill the dogs. A noose was still in the house that was used to hang a dog that bit one of the children. One dog was reportedly burned to death in his cage. Santiago allegedly admitted that he has been dog fighting since age 12.
The impact of such horrific scenes on the children is obviously the greatest concern. It is truly chilling to think of children being raised by such cruel individuals and exposed to this type of violence.
According to reports. Santiago admitted that he had hanged or electrocuted at least ten dogs. They kept as many as 16 dogs at a time, which makes me wonder how any relative or visitor could have entered the home without understanding that it was a dogfighting operation or at least entirely inappropriate or harmful for children.
Santiago actually ran a dogfighting website that brought other dogfighters to the area.
Notably, the couple cared only marginally more for children since police reported that one of the children was extremely malnourished. One report says all five were malnourished.
I am most interested in how a malnourished child and this house of horrors could go on so long without someone reporting it. I understand that too many children languish in abusive or unhealthy environments. This, however, was an operation that was fairly large.
I would hope that no court would ever return these children to this couple. Moreover, the endangerment charge should generate some jail time if half of these facts are confirmed by the court. Given the reported admissions by Santiago, I assume a plea is in the works but it is not clear how much credit he will get for such a plea based on the strength of the evidence and the involvement of children.