West Brandywine dog-fighting kingpin sentenced

Judge orders 34-year-old to spend 7 1/2 to 15 years in prison

Updated at 10:45 a.m. with quote from prosecutor

By Kathleen Brady SheaManaging Editor, The Times

Shane Santiago, 34, of West Brandywine Township, was ordered to spend 7½ to 15 years in prison for his role in a dog-fighting operation.

Shane Santiago, 34, of West Brandywine Township, was ordered to spend 7½ to 15 years in prison for his role in a dog-fighting operation.

A West Brandywine Township man, accused by Chester County District Attorney Tom Hogan of operating  “a house of pain and horror” for dozens of pit bulls used in a multi-state, dog-fighting operation, was sentenced to 7 ½ to 15 years in state prison on Tuesday.

Chester County Court Senior Judge Thomas G. Gavin imposed the sentence on Shane L. Santiago, 34, who pleaded guilty last month to animal cruelty and unrelated drug charges. Earlier this month, Gavin sentenced his wife, Laura Ann Acampora, 34, to 11 ½ to 23 months in prison followed by 10 years’ probation, court records said.

When police executed a search warrant on Dec. 5, 2012, they found what Hogan termed  “a full gladiator gym for dogs:” treadmills for endurance training, tools to incite biting,  steroidal medicine “to amp up their savagery,” a noose used to hang a dog that bit one of the couple’s five children, and a blood-splattered basement arena for staging the fights.

During the year leading up to their arrests, Hogan said authorities had seen indications that dog fighting was occurring in Chester County when maimed or dead pit bulls were found abandoned.  He said the multi-agency investigation ramped up in September 2012 when smoke along Rt. 82 led a local fire chief to discover a pit bull burning to death inside a locked cage.

Hogan said the publicity from the dog-burning case caused participants in the dog-fighting world to lie low for a while, but investigators kept pursuing leads. West Brandywine Township had received complaints about possible dog-fighting at Santiago’s residence in the 1300 block of North Manor Road, Hogan said. He said investigators got a break when they contacted Santiago’s landlord, learned he was about to be evicted, and got permission to search the home.

The Chester County SPCA was contacted when investigators found injured animals, Hogan said. The agency rescued six dogs, ranging from a young puppy to a severely disfigured adult pit bull. Hogan said investigators also found a dead pit bull puppy in a trashcan outside, double-wrapped in plastic bags. In the gruesome world of dog-fighting, only winning dogs have value, Hogan said. Losing dogs are generally killed by shooting, drowning, hanging, or electrocution with car-jumper cables – like the ones containing dog hair that were found at the defendants’ residence, Hogan said.

According to the criminal complaint, Santiago, who referred to the animals as “livestock,” acknowledged killing at least 10 dogs by hanging or electrocution. He said he used a cable to fashion a noose for one dog that bit his daughter and wouldn’t let go, adding that it “took three minutes for the dog to die,” the complaint said.

Santiago told investigators that he and Acampora “were planning on making the training and fighting of pit bull dogs a family business,” the complaint said. He said he had planned to host two upcoming dog-fighting matches in his home – one in December and one in January, the complaint said. Asked about an injured dog that had been reported being carried out of his home in August, Santiago said some men brought the animal to spar with his fighting dog, and it got hurt, the complaint said.

Hogan credited Assistant District Attorney Priya T. DeSouza, West Brandywine Township Police, Chester County Detectives, and the Chester County SPCA with a collaborative investigation that resulted in a successful prosecution.

“It takes a certain type of inhumanity to be capable of electrocuting and hanging dogs,” said DeSouza. “But to force five children to grow up in a household where they would hear the howls of dogs fighting for their life is monstrous. The sentencing judge appropriately recognized all of these factors ….”

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One Comment

  1. C. Johnson says:

    Great job Chester County SPCA and Judge Thomas Gavin!

    This couple should be treated like they treated the poor pit bulls.
    There children should be removed from their care. Hopefully, the bastard will encounter the same kid of treatment, he subjected the pit bulls to, himself in prison and he won’t come out.

    Congratulations to all who found this creep and to great law enforcement officers and work which resulted in this case being solved and the bastard and his wife being punished. Also congrats to a very humane and fair judge who recognized this disgusting crime and didn’t let the creep off.

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