COLUMBIA, SC (WCSC) - South Carolina's most notorious breeder of fighting pit bulls is getting out of prison after serving just six years of a 30-year sentence.
A South Carolina parole board voted 5-2 in favor of granting parole to 63-year-old David Ray Tant on Wednesday morning.
Tant will be required to have intensive supervision for six months and won't be allowed to have any connection with dog ownership or training. Tant could be released from prison at any time, whenever paperwork has been completed.
At the beginning of the parole hearing, Tant told the panel he has learned his lesson.
"That man of six years ago is dead and gone, never to live again," Tant told the parole board.
Six years ago, deputies seized 47 pit bulls and dog fighting equipment from Tant's property after a surveyor was shot by a booby trap gun. Tant pleaded guilty several dog fighting charges in 2004.
Parole opponents told the board that Tant needs to serve more time.
State Attorney General Henry McMaster spoke in opposition of parole for Tant, saying that he emphatically opposes parole for Tant. He said parole will hurt efforts against dog fighting. McMaster added that the dogs were trained by Tant and said he was the second largest dog breeder in the U.S. McMaster said it will be too early and damaging to law enforcement if Tant is parolled.
Tant's mother said her son is a changed man.
"I ask you to please find in your heart to give my son David a second chance."
The parole board agreed, ordering Tant to undergo six months of intensive supervision and to have no dealings with dogs.
Tant's attorney Doug Jennings said at the hearing that Tant is a non-violent offender and has no prior record, which should make the decision a slam dunk for the parole board. Jennings said Tant would be at no risk to re-offend and was never disciplined in prison.
Jennings told the board that Tant was picked out and made a whipping boy for the seriousness of dog fighting.
Kerry Baxley, Tant's cousin, asked the parole board to give a fair judgement and leave politics out of their decision. Harriet Grady Thomas, Tant's friend, said she has seen a change in Tant.
In opposition, Charlie Karesh of the Charleston Animal Society said that Tant's dogs were born to fight and win or die. Karesh said the dogs were victims and were abused.
Attorney and former parole board member Dwayne Green said it is important for the Charleston community to keep Tant behind bars. Green said this is the signature case for dog fighting in South Carolina and maybe the nation. Green said Tant has filed an appeal of the length of his sentence and he will have his day in court.
In July, a three-member panel voted 2-1 to parole Tant, but the split vote meant the full board had to decide if Tant is to be released early. Tant said during his July hearing he is a changed man and won't hurt dogs again.
When Tant leaves prison, he plans to live with his mother and take care of her and his sister. He also has a couple of jobs lined up, possibly one as a carpenter. He also said he will work for a ministry in Charleston that helps ex offenders re-enter society.