A pit bull and her seven puppies were returned to Philadelphia Eagles running back Bryce Brown after they had been previously seized in a suspected dog-fighting operation in Wisconsin, according to reports.
The dogs were removed from a pit bull breeding kennel near Eau Claire on May 21, but a county judge ordered the dogs returned to Brown, who was not himself linked to the dog fighting, on Friday, according to the Leader Telegram.
Joseph A. Sudbrink, the owner of Northland Pits, was arrested and charged with mistreating animals and running a breeding kennel without a license, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The Leader Telegram reported a criminal investigation is continuing, and that 19 other dogs remain in the custody of the Eau Claire County Humane Association.
The website for Northland Pits says the kennel is a "breeder of high quality American pit bull terriers," and says, "No dogs bred, sold, or used for any illegal activities."
The report said Brown, who did not appear in court Friday, purchased Eilis in 2010 as a pet, according to an affidavit. He reportedly sent her to Northland Pits to be bred in February. The Leader Telegram reported the dog was returned to Brown in Wichita, Kansas.
Nearly four years earlier, Brown’s teammate, quarterback Michael Vick, was signed by the Eagles after his release from prison on federal charges stemming from a dog-fighting ring he ran. The decision to sign Vick enraged animal lovers and activists who were furious that the team would employ a player with a past that tied him to the brutal deaths of an unknown number of dogs.
According to the Inquirer, Stevens Point attorney Sheila Kessler represented Brown and his wife, Morgan at the hearing and argued her client’s puppies were losing value the longer they were held by authorties.
“It’s a lot easier to sell eight-week-old puppies than it is to sell eight-month-old puppies,” said Kessler, who brought a photo of Brown hugging his wife, and his wife hugging Eilis to court, according to the report.