Who, age What Where When Last Known Address
Gerard Cavlan, 30(1) Gaelic football star exposed in dogfighting - 1 dog seized

Dungannon, County Tyrone, Ireland

April 20, 2006 Finland
Gerard Cavlan, 31(2) Gaelic football star exposed in dogfighting again

Belfast, Northern Ireland

August 30, 2007 Dungannon, Ireland
Robert Gonzales(2) pitbull breeder arrested for dogfighting

Belfast, Northern Ireland

August 30, 2007  
Paul Dunkel(2) pitbull breeder arrested for dogfighting

Belfast, Northern Ireland

August 30, 2007  
Tom Bell(2) Farmer Boys dogfighter exposed

Belfast, Northern Ireland

August 30, 2007  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date
  no licenses for 3 other dogs 1 pitbull

(1) Convicted

(2) Alleged


The USPCA has seized a pitbull terrier believed to be involved in an international dogfighting ring, from the home of a well known GAA player.

  (Photo courtesy of Herald Sun)  The animal was taken from Tyrone GAA player, Gerard Cavlan following a planned operation by the PSNI and the USPCA.

It is understood that the dog had been tracked on flights from Helsinki through Frankfurt and then to Dublin, before being taken to the GAA players home in Dungannon, County Tyrone.

The pet's passport confirmed that the animal's name was Cannonball and it's owner lived in Finland.

A number of other items were also seized during the operation including documents relating to dogfighting.

A statement issued by Gerard Cavlan's solicitor said that his client did not own the dog or condone dogfighting, but did confirm that the animal had been seized from his property.

It is understood that the USPCA had the dog examined by a vet who had confirmed that it's injuries were similar to wounds sustained in dogfights.

Stephen Philpot from the animal charity said that they decided to remove the dog because of the facial injuries it suffered.  He said: "Our vets have confirmed for us that this is an animal which they would class as a fighting dog under the terms of the Dangerous Dog Act.

"They've also confirmed the animal has injuries to its face, throat and ears and teeth, which would suggest those injuries are consistent with a dog used in organised dogfighting."

The charity has also expressed it's concerns about three other pitbull terriers, which were at the house at the time of the search.

When the USPCA returned to collect the dogs, they had been removed.

Mr Cavlan's solicitor also stated that his client did not own any of the dogs, which were at his Dungannon home.

Update 4/25/07:  Cavlan was prosecuted by Dungannon council after being caught with an unmuzzled and badly scarred pitbull terrier.

  (Photo courtesy of Herald Sun - the pitbull seized from Cavlan)  Cavlan admitted in court to five offences involving possession of a pitbull, having it with no muzzle and having no licence for three Staffordshire terriers.

Magistrate Eamon King told Cavlan: "You have to be aware that people do look up to you and people do tend to emulate you and want to emulate you ... in this day and age there is no place in this society for animals of this nature."

Mr King said that had Cavlan contested the charges he would have sent him to prison, however the Tyrone player escaped with a £650 fine and instruction to pay legal costs because of his last minute guilty plea.

While local councils need to be rigorous in their enforcement policies, the courts must ensure the cases are taken extremely seriously.

The courts must make an example of those people who ignore the law and continue to breed illegal and dangerous dogs before there are any more serious injuries or a death.

Accountability must also fall on legal dog owners to ensure their pets do not pose a threat to the public or other animals.

Dog attacks can occur as a result of poor dog training, upbringing and environment, therefore all dog owners should be encouraged to be responsible.

Update 8/29/07:  Gerard Cavlan's future GAA career is in doubt today following allegations that he is heavily involved in an illegal international dogfighting ring.

A BBC documentary last night claimed the 30-year-old Tyrone footballer helped run illegal fights between pitbull terriers.

Cavlan was secretly filmed boasting about the dogs.

He was fined €650 earlier this year after pleading guilty to possessing a dangerous dog, but denied at the time that he was involved in illegal dogfighting.

Update 8/30/07:  Gerard Cavlan, an all-Ireland medal winner, is a senior figure in a dogfight operation known as The Bulldog Sanctuary Kennels.

The 17-month investigation uncovered 15 illegal dogfight gangs in Northern Ireland

Earlier this year, Cavlan, from Dungannon, was convicted of possessing a dangerous dog and fined £650.

In April, Dungannon Magistrates Court was told that Cavlan had merely collected the dog from kennels for a Dublin man and was not involved in any other illegal activities.

  (Photo courtesy of Herald Sun)  However, with the aid of a trained undercover operative and secret filming, it was discovered that this was not true.

During secret filming, after being raided by the USPCA, Cavlan admitted that he still had "a dozen or 15 dogs".

He also talked about the strength and skill of a pitbull terrier in a fight.

"Sure he had him in the chest, and he shook him and he shook him for 25 minutes... if he hadn't got you killed in half an hour... he was in trouble, you know. A real hard mouthed dog," he said.

You could hear the skin and flesh tearing as every wound was inflicted.

Five of the 15 gangs found to be operating in Northern Ireland are based in Belfast and some of these groups have links to international dogfight organisations.

One of the gangs, the Tandragee based Farmers Boys, was infiltrated by an undercover operator.

The Farmers Boys are involved in dogfight matches both in Northern Ireland and internationally.

After being taken into the inner circle of group, the undercover operator was permitted access to a dogfight in Tandragee.

He said the scenes he saw during a fight were horrific.  "The most shocking thing was seeing the dogs being ripped apart and being covered in puncture wounds with gristle coming out of it and bites down to the bone where you could see the white of the bone underneath," he said.

The investigation also led to Finland where it uncovered an international dogfight ring and discovered how illegal pitbulls are transported from Europe into Northern Ireland.

It also uncovered how the dogs were trained and are forced into practice fights or "rolls" from as young as 10-months-old.

While in Finland, the undercover operator won the trust of leading pitbull breeder Robert Gonzales who explained how easily pitbulls could be exported into Northern Ireland.

When asked if he registered a dog being exported out of the country as a pitbull on its animal passport, Gonzales explained that he tricked customs officials by marking it as a mixed breed.

"I've imported a lot of dogs so I know how to fool the customs... all you need is a computer and a printer," he said.

The USPCA will be following up on these findings.

Cavlan's barrister said that the footballer had no involvement in relation to any other activities that would be illegal. fighting dogs.

The breeders, Robert Gonzales and Paul Dunkel, were confronted by the BBC crew with evidence of their dealings before police arrested them.

The program said documents showed that Cavlan bought a pitbull, named Cannon Ball, from Gonzales and went to Finland to see dogfights.

Cavlan was filmed saying that he had co-founded a dogfighting club called Bulldog Sanctuary Kennels.

The program said Cavlan's business partner was a Protestant extremist and drug dealer.

Gonzales was filmed saying he lent Cannon Ball to Cavlan so that he could father a stable of dogs fit for combat.

Spotlight, the BBC's main investigative program in Belfast, also secretly filmed a dogfighting competition in Finland involving Gonzales and Tom Bell, an organiser of another Northern Ireland dogfighting club called the Farmers Boys.

Gonzales was filmed getting down on his hands and knees in front of two 23kg dogs and urging his dog to kill the other.

After the 45-minute fight ended with both dogs badly injured, the program said, Gonzales took his dog to another building and tried to electrocute it by clipping its tail and ear to a power source and throwing a bucket of water on it.  It survived but was killed in another unspecified way.

The Gaelic Athletic Association, which organises Gaelic football in both parts of Ireland, allowed Cavlan to play for Tyrone even after he pleaded guilty in April to possessing a dangerous dog.  In 2007 Cavlan was let go from the Tyrones for his involvment in dogfighting.


BBC Herald Sun
Belfast Telegraph 4 NI