SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — On Sept. 22, 2023, Antonio Casillas Montero, owner of Stone City Kennels, was sentenced to seven years in prison for conspiring to violate the Animal Welfare Act and for possession of dogs for use in animal fighting ventures. U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico W. Stephen Muldrow announced the sentence.

For more than 35 years, Casillas ran Stone City Kennels, through which he participated in over 150 dog fights. Casillas bred pit bull-type dogs for fights in Puerto Rico, Mexico, Ecuador, Peru, the Dominican Republic and various cities in the continental United States. During a search of his property in Humacao, authorities seized several pit bull-type dogs — including many suffering from pustules, fungus, lameness and jaw clamping.

“Casillas’s conduct is on the extreme end of the spectrum of cruelty in an already cruel form of abuse,” said the government’s sentencing memorandum.

According to evidence, Casillas used veterinarians in Puerto Rico to obtain health certificates to send fighting dogs to the Dominican Republic on a ferry, where the dogs would be trained in the weeks before matches. During fights, which could last for over 90 minutes, Casillas let losing dogs die from their injuries rather than removing them from danger. During the sentencing hearing, the government presented a video of one of Casillas’ dogs dying after a match in the Dominican Republic while being insulted for its defeat.

In addition to fighting numerous dogs, Casillas organized large, international matches. He and his partners bred fighting dogs, sell them for thousands of dollars, and fly them from Puerto Rico to their destinations. The government presented evidence of inquiries from potential customers in South America and Europe regarding Stone City Kennels’ dogs.

Casillas also mentored dog fighters on training techniques with steroids. Evidence indicated that he was considered a “Caribbean legend” of dog fighting.

“This sentencing is a strong message of a firm stance against animal cruelty; we must work together to create more humane and compassionate societies,” said HSI San Juan Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Gonzalez-Ramos. “This sentencing of this individual who profited from the illegal and cruel practice of dogfighting does exactly that: Hold those who profit from animal cruelty accountable.”

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General and the Department of Homeland Security investigated the case.

Dogfighting for entertainment and profit is not only cruel and inhumane, but also a violation of federal law,” said Muldrow. “This sentencing ends the defendant’s decades-long involvement in this illegal business and hopefully will deter others.”

“The United States Department of Agriculture, Office of Inspector General-Investigations, actively investigates allegations of animal abuse,” said that office’s Special Agent in Charge Miles Davis. “This agency has made animal fighting a high priority in order to demonstrate that these blatant acts of cruelty to animals will no longer be tolerated. We would like to thank the United States attorney’s office for aggressively prosecuting perpetrators of animal fighting, our federal law enforcement partners, and United States Department of Agriculture, Animal Plant Health Inspection Service, Investigative Enforcement Services for their dedicated work in this investigation.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Gottfried of the Violent Crimes Section prosecuted the case.

If you have information regarding dog fights or animal cruelty, please call the Puerto Rico Police Bureau’s Office of the Coordinator of Law 154 at 787-793-1234, extension 3128 or 3131. You may also report suspicious activities to HSI San Juan by calling 787-729-6969.