Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dog fighting investigation continues

Wayne County officials made a gruesome discovery Monday afternoon as they continued their investigation into an illegal dog fighting operation.

Daniel Giles/TimesDaily Kia, an 11-year-old pit bull, was rescued from fighting by Lori Alexander, of Muscle Shoals. Alexander said when Kia came to live with her and her husband five years ago, the dog was terrified of people."We found a dead frozen dog wrapped up in the freezer, inside the house," Wilson said. "Just when I thought it couldn't get any worse, it does."

Wilson said deputies who were still at the Rasberry Hollow Road residence north of Waynesboro late Monday night found evidence where dogs had been killed and buried.

"We found dog bones scattered all over the yard. It looked like in some instances, that the dogs had been burned and then the carcass buried or the bones just scattered around," Wilson said.

Saturday night, members of the sheriff's office and the Waynesboro Police Department raided a dog fighting operation at the residence.

Wilson said the raid resulted in the arrest of the property owner, 43-year-old Mitchell Beasley and his live-in girlfriend, Lindy Louise Andrews, 43.

They were charged with 22 counts each of aggravated animal cruelty and 22 counts each of dog fighting.

Wilson said they were among six people charged with felonies in connection with the dog fights. The sheriff said that 18 people, ranging in ages from 13-70, were taken into custody. He said 12 were charged with misdemeanor offenses.

The sheriff said 27 dogs, all pit bulls, including five puppies, were turned over to the Humane Society.

Many of the older dogs showed signs of previous fights, authorities said.

Wilson said one of the dogs had a missing eye, one had his leg chewed badly and all of the others, with the exception of the puppies, had numerous bites and cuts all over their bodies. He said some even had large gashes on their bodies.

The sheriff said a deputy has been staying at the house with the animals to make sure they are OK until something can be done with them. He said the Humane Society has been called in to take over the dogs.

Lori Alexander, of Muscle Shoals, said the pit bulls, even though they have been fighting, can be rehabilitated.

"It's very hard to get the fight out of them. Most of them will not be human aggressive, but they will be dog aggressive," said Alexander who along with her husband, Kirk, have rescued pit bulls in the past and have two now.

She said pit bulls are bred to protect and are "extremely loyal to their owners."

"But when they are misused, they become aggressive," she said.

Alexander said her dog, Kia, was fought and was very aggressive when she came to live with the family.

"She has nursed three kittens and a Lab puppy," Alexander said. "The aggressiveness can be gotten out of them, it just takes time and patience and willpower."

Alexander said when Kia came to live with her and her husband five years ago, the dog was terrified of people.

"You couldn't get next to her, but with time and love, she's one of the family now," Alexander said.

John Goodwin, manager of animal fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States, said since former NFL quarterback Michael Vick was arrested for running a dog fighting operation, the problem has been brought more to light.

He said his office gets more calls now about dog fighting than ever before. He said law enforcement is aggressively trying to do something about illegal dog fights.

"From the first nine months of 2006 to first nine months of 2008, we found the number of dog fighting raids doubled," Goodwin said. "There has been a massive effort by law enforcement around the country to deal with these fights. And it's evident that the efforts are having an impact."

Tom Smith can be reached at 740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.

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