The parole hearing for David Tant, identified as on one of the nation’s most notorious dog breeders, has been postponed from its scheduled Wednesday date.
Tant’s attorney sought the postponement. The new date will be announced later by the Department of Probation, Parole and Pardon Services, with at least 30 days notice.
Tant, 63, formerly of the Charleston area, pleaded guilty in November 2004 to more than 40 counts of illegally breeding fighting dogs, and one assault count connected to a surveyor who was wounded by a booby trap after he wandered onto Tant’s property in southern Charleston County.
The surveyor was showered by an explosion of birdshot, injuring him slightly. The device was described as a "directional mine" meant to ward off intruders.
Months later, Tant was sentenced to 40 years behind bars, though that time was later reduced to around 30 years after he paid partial restitution. This is his first bid for parole after serving six years behind bars.
After Tant’s arrest, authorities discovered a variety of implements used in the underground dog-fighting trade connected to Tant, including caged treadmills, cattle prods, harnesses, a bear trap, homemade gun silencers, dog-fighting magazines and remnants of a dog-fighting ring.
Authorities also seized 47 dogs, many which showed signs of scarring and abuse.
Tant is currently housed at the MacDougall Correctional Institution, near Ridgeville in Dorchester County.
Attorney General Henry McMaster and numerous local animal activists had planned to attend the hearing to argue why they believe Tant, formerly of Charleston, should stay locked up.
Based on his level of involvement, "I think it appears he could jump right back in the dog-fighting arena," said Charles Karesh of the Charleston Animal Society and also a member of the state's anti-dog-fighting task force. A phone call to Tant's lawyer was not returned.
Tant, who prosecutors said was the country's No. 2 breeder of fighting pit bulls, was charged with 41 counts of illegally breeding fighting dogs, and one assault count connected to wounding the surveyor. Months later he would plead guilty in the middle of his trial as the evidence piled up against him. He was sentenced to 40 years behind bars by Circuit Judge Markley Dennis and all his dogs were euthanized, as none was considered adoptable.
Tant's prosecution was considered a landmark event in combating illegal dog-fighting in South Carolina. Just weeks before his arrest, McMaster formally announced the creation of a dog-fighting task force as a reaction to a spate of dog-fighting cases uncovered around South Carolina in the months prior.
Karesh said releasing Tant from prison after serving just six years of a 40-year term would bring into question whether the state is serious about ending the culture of dog-fighting. "To be out on his first try doesn't send a clear message to the community," he said.
Prior to his arrest, Tant's bloodline of dogs was especially prized in the world of illegal dog-fighting, where some said his involvement dated as far back as the 1960s. He even described himself in interviews as an "old-time dog man."
The illegal "sport" of animal fighting followed a familiar path, with betting, steroids and dead animals all part of the ritual. Some also said it could be profitable. Estimates from the time of Tant's arrest were that a puppy from a champion's line could fetch up to $1,500. Two-year-old dogs with some fighting experience went for about $2,500.
Prior to being convicted, Tant and his supporters described him as a reformed dog fighter-turned legal dog breeder. They conceded he was involved in dog fighting before 2001, but that he left the sport behind after testifying before a federal grand jury as a government witness.
Tant is currently housed at the MacDougall Correctional Institution, near Ridgeville in Dorchester County, about an hour's drive from Charleston. He could still opt to waive requesting parole or seek a delay.
The groups opposed to Tant's release plan to present thousands of petition signatures to the state parole board.