SIDNEY — Delaware County Sheriff Craig DuMond on Friday announced the arrest of a Franklin resident in connection with 20 severely abused and neglected dogs rescued from a barn last week.

Nasir Azmat, 41, of Franklin, was arrested Wednesday and charged with 41 misdemeanor violations of New York Agriculture and Markets Law for his alleged treatment of dogs that were “inappropriately held and abused in the furtherance of dogfighting-related activities,” according to DuMond.

Azmat was charged with 20 counts of possessing dogs under circumstances evincing an intent that such animals engage in animal fighting; one count of owning or possessing animal-fighting paraphernalia with the intent to engage in or otherwise promote or facilitate animal fighting; and 20 counts of overdriving, torturing and injuring animals by failing to provide proper sustenance.

“It’s just an absolutely heart-breaking situation to see innocent victims, defenseless victims, treated in such a manner — it’s horrific,” DuMond said.

On Wednesday, Feb. 5, deputies discovered 20 unlicensed dogs “confined in deplorable conditions without proper food, water or care” at a residence on county Highway 21, DuMond said.

“Deputies determined that although there was no evidence of active dogfighting activity observed at that location, the traumatic scars and injuries to the canines, along with equipment and paraphernalia present at that scene was consistent with the training and conditioning of canines for dogfighting-related activities,” DuMond said.

“I have no doubt in my mind what was going on in that house,” said Delaware Valley Humane Society shelter manager Erin Insinga. “It was a nightmare.”

“We’re convinced that the dogs were being raised for the purpose of dogfighting,” DuMond said. “We do not know the locations of where the dogfighting may be taking place.”

He declined to comment on the nature of the dogfighting paraphernalia recovered from the scene.

“It’s an ongoing investigation and we don’t want to compromise anything in court,” DuMond said.

“I saw no food, I saw no water; the animals were very skinny, they were petrified, they were completely isolated from human contact,” Insinga said. “Some were actively bleeding, some had very old injuries that we could see. The cages were covered in feces, blood, vomit, urine. They were urinating on each other, stacked three high — it was the worst I’ve seen in 15 years of doing rescue.”

DuMond said Azmat, who was known previously to law enforcement, was “very cooperative” in the investigation.

“Initially we were going to seize the dogs, but after a conversation with Cpl. (Eric) Alexander, he turned the dogs over willingly,” DuMond said.

Azmat was also ticketed by the Town of Franklin Dog Control Officer and charged with 19 counts of harboring an unlicensed dog, DuMond said.

He was issued appearance tickets returnable to the Franklin Town Court at 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 27.

DuMond said with “99% certainty” that Azmat would have been arraigned and held on the charges prior to the Jan. 1 enactment of New York state bail reform legislation.

“The one thing that concerns me about animal abusers is that historically they don’t stop their behavior, and they transfer that behavior to human beings as well,” DuMond said. “There are people that abuse animals, that abuse children, that abuse their spouses — these are very dangerous people that need to be assertively addressed.”

Others were living at the residence at the time of the dogs’ discovery, DuMond said, including two children.

“There wasn’t anything to indicate we needed to search the house,” he said, adding that the children’s wellbeing was not deemed to be cause for concern.

DuMond and Insinga credited a tip from a local business owner in leading to the discovery of the dogs.

“The public is the eyes and ears of the people that are out there. It’s very, very important that if you see something, say something,” DuMond said. “Victims like these innocent and defenseless dogs cannot speak for themselves, and they must rely on us to help them out.”

“Everyone’s doing really well,” Insinga said of the dogs. “Some of them have displayed some severe behavior issues that were certainly anticipated, but they all seem to be really great with humans, and that’s very important.”

DuMond presented Insinga with the department’s Superstar award “for exemplary professional and compassionate duties in advocating for our defenseless animals of Delaware County.”

“Your partnership and honorary service brings great credit upon yourself, the Delaware Valley Humane Society and Delaware County as a whole,” DuMond said.

The award was also presented to Cpl. Alexander for his “diligent, faithful and dedicated service in defending our defenseless animals of Delaware County.”

“I’m truly blessed as a sheriff to have guys like Cpl. Alexander working at the Delaware County Sheriff’s Office, and everyone that lives in Delaware County is very fortunate and blessed by his service to them,” DuMond said.

“The voices of the Franklin 20 and all abused animals will not go unheard,” Insinga said. “Our community is strong, and our commitment to rising up for these afflicted is never-ending.”

Sarah Eames, staff writer, can be reached at seames@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213. Follow her @DS_SarahE on Twitter.

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