Hunting dog neglect cases overshadowed by dogfighting
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2004:
CHARLESTON, S.C.–Broad exemptions in humane laws for
standard hunting practices have historically tended to exempt hunting
packs from scrutiny.
Parallel neglect cases in North and South Carolina might now be
challenging lawmakers and public officials to rethink the presumption
that an investment in breeding and training ensures that dogs will be
cared for–but that aspect of at least one case is overshadowed by
crowded shelter conditions resulting from an unrelated case involving
Responding to an anonymous tip that starving dogs were eating
each other, Citizens for Animal Protection of Warren County
investigator William Roberts on September 10, 2004 visited the
Parktown Hunting Club near Warrenton, North Carolina, and soon
called for help from animal control officer James Solomon,
veterinarian Chris O’Malley, and a sheriff’s detective.
Acting on the erroneous advice of Solomon and Warren
magistrate W.T. Hardy that suffering dogs could be seized without a
warrant, Roberts took 24 of the 60 dogs they found to his home.
O’Malley took the two in the weakest condition to his clinic.
Eighteen days of confusion followed over the warrant
requirements, whose dogs were involved, and who was responsible for
looking after them. Dogs were found to be registered to six
different individuals, one of whom said he was not a member of the
Parktown Hunting Club and that the dog traced to him had apparently
been stolen from the club he does belong to, 60 miles away.
Citizens for Animal Protection of Warren County eventually named
eight “John Does” in a civil suit, and won temporary custody of the
dogs pending an October 12 hearing.
On September 14, Charleston County Animal Services and
sheriff’s deputies impounded 21 reportedly emaciated hounds from a
site on Johns Island, South Carolina. The dogs were taken to the
John Ancrum SPCA for care.
Herbert Murray Jr., 60, admitted to owning 17 of the dogs and was
charged with 17 counts of cruelty. Legal responsibility for the
other four dogs was not determined. Two puppies were euthanized due
to poor prospects for recovery.
The John Ancrum SPCA was already overextended in looking
after 50 pit bull terriers seized on April 7 from alleged dogfighter
David Tant, 57, who was arrested after a surveyor stumbled into a
trip-wire on his property and was wounded by a shotgun blast. Tant
faces 68 criminal charges, including animal fighting, assault and
battery with intent to kill.
“A very unfortunate and sad part of this is that the John
Ancrum SPCA is having to euthanize adoptable dogs in order to keep
these 50 dogs who will never be able to be introduced back into
society,” Charleston County administrator Roland Windham told
Charleston Post & Courier staff writer Robert Behre. John Ancrum
SPCA spokesperson Charles Karesh estimated that keeping the Tant pit
bulls, as required by the court, has cost 25 other dogs’ lives.
The pit bulls would disappear fast if offered to the public.
A growing problem in regions with heavy dogfighting activity is that
reclaim and adoption fees at shelters are often less than the going
price of a stolen “bait dog” used to train fighting dogs, and much
less than the price of a proven fighter or bitch known to whelp
“So many people have showed up at the parish shelter in
Luling (Louisiana) and demanded dogs they don’t own,” the New
Orleans Times-Picayune noted in a September 14 editorial, “that the
St. Charles Parish Council passed an ordinance that requires owners
of pit bulls and wolf hybrids to tag the animals with a microchip to
prove identification….The Sheriff’s Office also could work to crack
down on the illegal dogfights that are thought to be driving the
market for pit bulls,” the Times-Picayune suggested.
That would help–but as dogfighting investigators often point out,
laws need to be updated to treat the crime seriously. That includes
incarcerating trainers, handlers, promoters, and gamblers, who
are typically also involved in other forms of crime and may kill an
informant as readily as a dog.
A trend toward stiffer sentencing may have begun in Dallas,
Texas, on September 1 when a jury of eight men and four women sent
Carey D. McMillian, 23, to prison for 10 years on a first
conviction for cruelty and dogfighting.
McMillian in September 2003 set two pit bull terriers on
neighbor Ronald Huff’s Dalmatian/pointer/hound mix, named Cisco,
after stealing Cisco from Huff’s yard. Other neighbors videotaped
McMillian watching from a lawn chair as the pit bulls fatally mauled
Cisco. McMillian reportedly gave Cisco a kick to make sure he was
dead before dragging the presumed carcass into an alley behind Huff’s
home–but Cisco was still alive when found, hours later.
The case, and sentence, reminded observers of the April
1990 conviction of Kevin Deschenes, 19, in Lowell, Massachusetts,
whom a neighbor photographed in the act of stomping his German
shepherd. Sent to jail for six months, Deschenes was the first
person in Massachusetts and perhaps the U.S. to actually serve time
for cruelty in more than 20 years.
That finding, together with increasing recognition of the
association of unpunished violence toward animals with later violence
toward humans, led to the passage of laws providing felony cruelty
penalties in more than 40 states.
By 1996, ANIMAL PEOPLE discovered in a review of sentencing
patterns, the typical sentence for violent abuse of a dog or cat
included six times more days in custody or on probation than seven
years earlier. ANIMAL PEOPLE affirmed that the trend was continuing
in a 1998 follow-up.
“Hog/dog rodeo” promoter Johnnie Hayes of Coffeyville,
Alabama, pledged to appeal his September 8, 2004 cruelty conviction
in Clarke County District Court. Sentencing was deferred.
Hayes was convicted for entertaining crowds with competitions in
which pit bull terriers were set upon penned pigs. The “winner” is
the dog who pulls a pig to the ground by the ear fastest.
Hayes, owner of H&H Kennels in Coffeyville, was arrested in
February 2004 after an investigative report about hog/dogging by Mike
Rush of NBC-12 in Mobile. Coffeyville police chief Frankie Crawford
and Clarke County Democrat editor Jim Cox described at least three
years of efforts to get Clarke County district attorney Bobby Keahey
and sheriff Jack Day to move against Hayes. Keahey and Day blamed
Hog/dog promoter Charles “Chuck” Harris Jr., of Clinton,
Louisiana, meanwhile told Mary Foster of Associated Press that he
will go out of business rather than challenge a new state law banning
the events. The law took effect on August 15.