Meridian Police Department officials said Wednesday they have charged two teenagers with dogfighting.
Lt. James Sharpe, interim commander of the MPD's Investigative Division, said Cephus M. Samuels, 18, and a 17-year old teenage boy were taken into custody at about 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at 39th Avenue and 22nd Street after a patrolman noticed the suspects were walking two pit bulldogs along the street. Upon closer inspection, the two dogs seemed to have sustained wounds from a very recent fight.
"There was blood on both the dogs and the suspects," said Sharpe. "The physical shape of the dogs was such the patrolman suspected the animals had been fighting recently."
Animal control officers with the City of Meridian were called to take possession of the two animals while Samuels and the unidentified juvenile were taken into custody. They both have been charged with two counts of dogfighting, a felony. Bond has been set for the two suspects at $2,500 for each dogfighting charge.
"Both of the suspects had a previous charge of dogfighting pending on them," Sharpe explained. "They were charges from an earlier incident that allegedly occurred."
Both of the canines were taken to a local veterinarian to determine just how serious the wounds were and to provide treatment. Sharpe said the veterinarian would also try to determine if the wounds did in fact seem consistent with those made by dogfighting.
Although the two suspects were to be jailed on the charges, the outlook for the two pit bulldogs was far from certain.
There have been cases in Meridian where dogs involved in fighting, especially pit bulldogs, would have to be euthanized. Dogs such as this that are bred and trained to fight are not normally adopted out by animal control departments.
"I don't know at this time what the fate of these two dogs will be," said Sharpe. "That is to be determined later."
Citizens can get involved in animal cruelty incidents by notifying local law enforcement of suspected acts against animals. In the case of cockfighting or dogfighting, the Humane Society of the United States has set up a Fighting Awards Program to provide monetary incentive for citizens to report the crimes.
Made possible by the Holland M. Ware Charitable Foundation, the HSUS's animal fighting reward program offers up to $5,000 for people who provide information leading to the arrest and conviction of animal fighters. The program precipitated dogfighting raids in half a dozen states. Seventeen rewards have been paid so far and several are pending. The cases range from a Texan who reported on his neighbor and his six scarred pit bulls to major busts with dozens of animals confiscated.
Cockfighting and dogfighting are crimes in Mississippi. Cockfighting is a misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum $500 fine and dogfighting is a felony, punishable by up to three years of imprisonment and/or a maximum $5,000 fine.
On Nov. 17, state representatives, officials from Jackson area law enforcement agencies and members of HSUS were present in Jackson to announce the program.
"Cockfighting and dogfighting are both horribly cruel blood sports," said Dale Bartlett, deputy manager of animal cruelty for The Humane Society of the United States. "The criminals who train animals to fight to the death — for nothing more than to gamble and feed their own sick sense of entertainment — must be brought to justice."