Thursday, November 8, 2007
Lamar resident faces dogfighting charge
By SUE WATSON
Benton County law officers disrupted what appeared to be a pit bull dog fighting operation last week and arrested a Lamar man on charges of dogfighting, according to deputy David Murphy with the sheriff’s office.
Forty-two animals were euthanized in the cleanup operation that began after dark Monday, October 29, he said.
It’s the worse case of dogfighting in Benton County since Murphy has been in law enforcement, he said.
“We’re fixing to address that problem and to start cracking down,” Murphy said.
Benton County does not have animal control ordinances or a Humane Society chapter.
“It’s pitiful to see those animals the way they were,” he said. “There was no food on the property. You definitely could tell where the dogs were scarred up.”
Ordinances are not needed to make charges of dogfighting, he said.
The maximum sentence, if convicted of one count of dog fighting in Mississippi, is three years imprisonment and a $5,000 fine, Murphy said.
Lamar resident Lee Thomas, 27, was charged with one count dog fighting and also on one drug-related charge and remained in jail in Benton County last week on $50,000 bond for the dogfighting charge and $25,000 on the drug charge, Murphy said.
Officials with the Marshall County Humane Society stepped in to help with the management of the situation which required humane euthanasia of all dogs on the property, some puppies and others adults, according to Melissa Chipman with the Marshall County Humane Society.
Murphy said he was attempting to serve an indictment for the arrest of Thomas on narcotics charges around 10:30 a.m. October 29 when he noticed a problem.
“The dogs were in plain view,” he said.
Benton County Sheriff Arnie McMullen obtained a search warrant and contacted the Marshall County Humane Society for assistance. Someone remained on the scene until the operations were terminated around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday, October 30, he said.
“We want to thank everyone involved from the local all the way to the federal level,” Murphy said.
Melissa Chipman with Marshall County Humane Society arrived on the scene around 8 p.m. Monday and officials worked until 3:30 a.m. in the dark with flashlights to put the animals to sleep, she said.
“The animals were humanely euthanized on the scene because of aggression issues,” Chipman said. “They were not easy to handle. There were some younger dogs on the scene - all bred for fighting.”
The Mississippi Animal Rescue League sponsored the action and paid for veterinary services because the costs were too great for Marshall County Humane Society to bear, she said.
“Our organization just could not have afforded that,” she said. “Speaking for myself, that’s the largest site I’ve been on.”
Dr. Isis Johnson, veterinarian for the Humane Society’s spay/neuter clinic, took care of the medical necessities - assessment and euthanasia.
Carmen Marlin with the Marshall County Humane Society was also at the scene.
Chipman said there is a great need for raising the consciousness about animal cruelty, abuse and neglect issues in the region.
“The reason we went out is we want to just try to stop this,” she said. “It’s one of the ugliest things a human can do to an animal. People need to know this is wrong and that they are going to be prosecuted and all the animals euthanized. They must be euthanized because the puppies are bred to be fighters. It’s a horrible, horrible situation. The dogs are not given any chance of a decent life.”
Murphy and Chipman said there was no dog food on the property.
“Several dogs were very scarred and some dogs had fresh injuries,” she said. “Most dogs were scarred. Obviously, the dogs had been in fighting for a while if one goes by the injuries.”
Although Marshall County has had several incidents of dog fighting, Chipman said she hopes the public can learn from the mistakes of others and stop this practice.
“These dogs should not have had to suffer that way,” she said.
Neither does the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) believe animals should have to suffer this way, said John Goodwin, manager of the HSUS’s animal cruelty and fighting campaign.
“The Benton County Sheriff’s Department truly set an example for other counties,” he said. “If every sheriff’s department in Mississippi treated dogfighting like they do in Benton County, this cruel and barbaric blood sport would be wiped out of the Magnolia State.”
HSUS is the nation’s largest animal protection organization. It fights for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs.
To contact the Marshall County Humane Society to arrange for a pet to be spay/neutered, call 662-252-6196. To adopt a homeless cat or dog, support the local adoption shelter or become a supporter of Humane Society activities, call 662-564-2900 or 901-212-6066.
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