Former MMA fighter indicted for animal torture

Local News

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) A former MMA fighter was indicted by a grand jury for torturing several family pets.

Leonardo Tafolla is accused of breaking the legs and jaw of two animals and hurting two more. 

“My mother tried to make this claim,” Tafolla said, when asked if he was aware of the investigation Tuesday. 

Court records show Tafolla’s mother suspected abuse and alerted animal control beginning on September 13. 

A vet discovered the family’s poodle suffered a broken femur, head trauma and carried several stillborn puppies. When confronted, court records show Tafolla admitted to his mom that he threw the dog on the ground because she “deserved it” for defecating “on his bedroom floor.”

“Have you ever abused animals?” ABC4 Utah reporter Hailey Higgins asked. 

“No. The most I have done is pick them up. She lets them in our room so they poop on our bed and even my kids’ bed,” Tafolla said. 

Court papers show more abuse over the next month including Tafolla’s kitten diagnosed with a skull and jaw fracture and a chihuahua with head trauma. Injuries, vets said, likely came from getting hit with a hard object, fist, or weapon.

Tafolla is also accused of tightly taping up the front paws of a pit bull with duct tape. The pitbull and  poodle were surrendered to animal control. 

While Salt Lake County Animal Control wouldn’t comment on this specific case, Captain Robert Lewis said it’s critical to report animal abuse. 

“We cannot allow stuff like this to happen. We don’t want it to escalate and starting with animals, moving up the ladder to children, people and elder abuse,” Salt Lake County Animal Control Capt. Robert Lewis said.

A judge set Tafolla’s bail at more than $100,000. He faces two counts of felony torture of a companion animal and two counts of misdemeanor cruelty to an animal. 

Tafolla preformed as a MMA fighter in 2014. A search of his criminal history in Utah fails to bring up any prior violent offenses. 

If you suspect animal abuse, call the local animal control office or 911. Capt. Lewis said it is important to be as descriptive as possible when reporting on an animal. 

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