COLUMBIA — David Ray Tant, once considered the country's second largest breeder of fighting dogs from his property in southern Charleston County, was granted parole in a 5-2 ruling Wednesday.
Tant, who participated in the parole hearing via satellite, is expected to be released from MacDougall Correctional Institution in about a month. He said he accepts responsibility for his role in dog fighting and pledged that he would never break another law.
"That old life is behind me now," Tant said to the parole board.
He served 5 years and 10 months of a sentence that called for him to serve until 2029. This year is the first opportunity that he could have been paroled.
Attorney General Henry McMaster said that the parole board's decision undermines the efforts of law enforcement and setbacks the work advocates have done to eradicate dog fighting. McMaster said dog fighting is "all over South Carolina," drawing people from across the country and feeding other crimes such as drug use and criminal domestic violence.
"I cannot fathom what this board was thinking," McMaster said.
Tant, 63, pleaded guilty in November 2004 to more than 40 counts of illegally breeding fighting dogs. Another count covered an assault charge when a surveyor was wounded by a booby trap that went off after he wandered onto Tant's Charleston County property.
Tant sold the dogs he bred for as much as $10,000 each to places as far away as Asia and Europe.
His attorney Doug Jennings, an outgoing state representative from Bennettsville, said Tant paid $100,000 in restitution. Jennings said Tant's 30-year sentence was more severe than that of any other person convicted of charges related to dog fighting.
Charles Karesh, of the state's anti-dog-fighting task force and also a member of the Charleston Animal Society, said, however, that an Alabama man was sentenced to more than 40 years. That man served about five years, less than the nearly six that Tant spent in prison.
Charleston attorney Dwayne Green, a former member of the parole board, petitioned the board to keep Tant in prison. Green said Tant's pending court appeal was the proper venue to decide whether he was unfairly sentenced.
The parole board voted to grant Tant's release without debate. The conditions of his parole include: six months' intensive supervision with his parole agent, no contact with dogs, and the ability to support himself.
Tant said he was needed in Charleston to care for his elderly mother and ailing sister, who suffers from Alzheimer's disease.
Tant said he has no intention of owning any pet, not even a goldfish. He has two jobs offers lined up, one in carpentry and one in Internet marketing.
Karesh said he would not have wanted Tant to volunteer at any animal shelters, which was a condition of pro football player Michael Vick's release on dog fighting charges. Karesh said he doesn't want Tant to even set foot on the property.
Karesh said he is not convinced that Tant is a changed man, nor does he believe that Tant learned any lessons about the devastation he caused to the potentially thousands of dogs that Karesh called Tant's victims.
Read more in Thursday's editions of The Post and Courier.