2006 saw biggest fighting dog seizure ever
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2007:
HOUSTON–Among the grimmest jobs in the 71 years that the
Houston Humane Society has operated an animal shelter was
euthanizing 258 pit bull terriers in August 2006, seized from the
property of murder victim and fighting dog breeder Thomas F. Weigner,
Investigators impounded 285 pit bulls in all from the Liberty
County site. Twenty-seven puppies were initially to have been
auctioned, without being sterilized first, by order of Liberty
County justice of the peace Phil Fitzgerald, but the Houston Humane
Society pointed out that Texas state law requires impounded dogs to
be sterilized prior to adoption or sale. Most of the pups were later
found to be ill with either parvovirus or the tick-borne disease
Another seven puppies were believed to have been stolen from
the crime scene during the initial investigation.
“Big” impoundments of alleged fighting dogs used to involve a
few dozen. Three raids in December 1992 made page one of the
January/February 1993 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE after impounding a
combined and then almost unheard of total of 97 dogs among them.
The Weigner case did in fact bring the largest seizure of
alleged fighting dogs on record. The previous high total in Texas
was 88, in January 2005. The previous U.S. record was 225, in a
2004 Oklahoma case that brought nearly 20 convictions, including
five years on probation for former National Football League player
LeShon Johnson, who has now been convicted twice of offenses related
“Weigner Jr., 27, bled to death after being shot in the leg
by three masked intruders,” recounted Cindy Horswell of the Houston
Chronicle. “His wife Julie Laban, their three children, and her
parents witnessed the shooting while bound with tape.”
Liberty County Sheriff’s Sergeant Kenny Daigle told Horswell
that the intruders were apparently searching for $100,000 in cash
that Weigner had recently won at a dogfight in Brazoria County.
“Neither Weigner nor his wife had a job, other than the
dogs,” Daigle said. “But they had paid $215,000 in cash for their
home and property, and were making payments on three nice new cars,”
he told Horswell.
In addition to the dogs, several thousand dollars in loose
cash, and alleged dogfighting paraphernalia, investigators
reportedly discovered a pound of marijuana on the Weigner property.
At least 13 dogfighting rings were broken up in conjunction
with arrests for alleged traffic in illegal drugs around the U.S. in
2006. All 13 involved possession of marijuana, 11 involved
possession of methedrine, and six involved possession of cocaine.
None involved possession of heroin, although one convicted
dogfighter had previous convictions for possessing both heroin and
Camille Gann, convicted of hosting dogfights to which LeShon
Johnson brought dogs, in December 2005 drew seven years in prison
plus eight years on probation. At the time, just a year ago, that
was an unusually stiff sentence. Since then, association of
dogfighting with drug crimes has combined with the introduction of
“three strikes” laws that increase the penalties for multi-time
offenders to markedly increase the sentences meted out to convicted
The longest sentence for dogfighting-related offenses, so
far, may be 16 years, given to Christoper D. Simmons, 26, in
March 2006 by Circuit Judge Lee S. Alford, of Dorchester County,
Alford is to serve five concurrent sentences on state charges
after pleading guilty to four counts of selling crack cocaine and
marijuana, including near a school, and to animal cruelty. The
state sentences will also be concurrent with a 20-year sentence that
Alford is serving for federal drug offenses.
“The cruelty charges surfaced when a deputy found five pit
bulls chained behind Simmons’ residence. A sixth dog was found
dead,” wrote Schuyler Kropf of the Charleston Post & Courier. “The
animals had injuries consistent with dogfighting, authorities said.”
Cedric Tory Smith, 25, of Wedgefield, South Carolina, in
September 2006 drew 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to 18
counts of dogfighting, plus charges of trafficking cocaine,
manufacturing crack cocaine, and marijuana possession, the state
attorney general’s office announced. Robert Lawrence Bostic, 23,
of the same address, drew 10 years in prison on similar drug charges.
Traditionally the stiffer part of sentences for multiple
convictions involving dogfighting and drug dealing or possession has
been for the drug offenses. Judge Ben McLaughlin, of Dothan,
Alabama, reversed tradition in November 2006, sending Timothy
McLeod, of Ozark, Alabama, to prison for 11 years in November 2006
for possession of marijuana and another controlled substance, and
criminally neglecting 14 pit bull terriers at an alleged dogfighting
arena in his back yard.
McLaughlin stipulated that McLeod was getting one year for
each of the drug crimes, and one year for each of the nine dogs who
were euthanized in consequence of his actions.
“Eleven dogs were bound with thick logging chains to
strengthen their chest muscles, and had little or no food or water
in their bowls,” summarized Ebony Horton of the Dothan Eagle.
“Three dog corpses with chains still wrapped around their necks were
found behind the arena. Nine dogs were later euthanized, mostly
because of behavioral problems. Two younger, less aggressive dogs
were placed in homes.”