The 13 pit bulls that were seized from a Rock Hill home in July were returned to their owner Thursday. But the owner, Richard Leach, will be back in court later this month to deal with animal cruelty charges.
Leach, 42, said Thursday that he loves his animals and expects to spend more than $5,000 getting them back. He claims he's already paid $2,500 for a fence and the county's bill for boarding the dogs is nearly $3,100.
If Leach hadn't taken the dogs back, they would have been euthanized.
“If I didn't care about them, you think I'd have paid the money?” he asked.
Leach was arrested in York County last month on charges of receiving stolen goods. He was later taken from the county jail to New Jersey, where he was wanted on drug charges, said York County Sheriff's Office attorney Kris Jordan.
The pit bulls were seized July 25, when officers searching for stolen air conditioners went to Leach's home on Northway Drive.
There, they found a dozen dogs that lacked adequate shelter and were restrained by logging chains. Some of the animals didn't have access to water, and none of the dogs had tags indicating they'd received rabies shots.
A veterinarian later found that most of the dogs had scarring and other injuries consistent with dogfighting, according to a Sheriff's Office report.
Leach said his dogs were chained in the woods near his house when police found them. At that time, he said, he was moving, and his truck was in a wreck, so he wasn't able to set up the dog houses.
He denied any involvement in dogfighting.