December 16, 2008 - 3:36:58 pm
Most of the adult pit bulls found staked out in a yard south of Newkirk Dec. 2 will have to be euthanized, Kay County Sheriff Everette VanHoesen said Tuesday.
"Most of the adult dogs are just too aggressive to put with a family," he said. "I hope people understand this is what we have to do. We'll save as many as we can."
VanHoesen believes the pit bull operation has been in the area for several months. Officers received some calls from concerned people soon after the dogs arrived but when they followed up on the calls found the dogs in good shape and being fed and watered. Then some hunters found the emaciated animals and made an anonymous call to the sheriff's office.
"This is the cruelest thing I ever saw," VanHoesen said. "This goes way beyond abuse and neglected."
Ninety-six adult dogs were staked outside. One died. Two had to be euthanized. At least one puppy found in a barn with nine others died. Another ten puppies were found in a house. One of them died.
Veterinarian Seletha Sanders evaluated the animals. Her scoring system rated the animals on a condition of one as very thin and five as obese. The majority of the dogs scored one or less.
"They tormented these dogs to be aggressive,"VanHoesen said. "It appears to me they were using these dogs with good dogs to fight or practice" for a dog fighting operation.
The adult dogs were so hungry and thirsty that at first they were not aggressive when officers and volunteers began feeding and watering them. But as they grew stronger, they began to grow more aggressive not only with the handlers but with the other dogs.
"I can't put them out with a family," the sheriff said.
Jerry Southern, a Wichita man arrested for cruelty to animals, told investigators he raised the animals to sell but people weren't buying them. He also claimed he fed and watered them daily. Southern has a criminal record.
He was charged in the past for cruelty to animals and ordered by the court not to possess any pit bulls. That's why he set up his operation in Oklahoma, according to VanHoesen.
Laws need to be enacted to prevent such operations from being set up in rural areas where there is more opportunity for abuse and neglect, he said.
The Oklahoma Alliance for Animals is working with the sheriff's office. Representatives from a California agency were expected in Newkirk Monday but the trip was delayed because of the weather. A local veterinarian is working with the puppies and hopes to adopt them out.
In the meantime, enough food, straw, and cash donations have been received to take care of the animals.
"I'd like to reach a conclusion," VanHoesen said.