Friday, December 5, 2008

Vet to examine rescued pit bulls

More than 100 dogs were seized from an Oklahoma farm leased by a Wichita man, who has been charged with animal cruelty.

An Oklahoma state veterinarian will examine more than 100 distressed pit bulls today. The dogs were found this week on a farm leased by a Wichita man now facing felony animal cruelty charges.

A judge on Thursday increased bond to $250,000 for Jerry Southern, 32, who is charged with 106 counts of animal cruelty and one count of possessing dogs for fighting.

The Kay County Sheriff's Office said each count is a felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Undersheriff Steve Kelley said investigators acting Monday on an anonymous tip went to a farm seven miles west of Newkirk and found 96 pit bulls, most of them chained to logs, with no food or water.

Kelley said Southern later told investigators he was raising the dogs to show and sell, but that the market for pit bulls had dried up and left him with a large inventory of animals.

Kelley said unrelated animal cruelty charges in Kansas prohibit Southern from owning pit bills. He said he suspects Southern rented the farm 10 miles south of the state line to escape the scrutiny of Kansas authorities.

Kelley said officers returned to the farm with a search warrant Wednesday night and found 10 pit bull puppies inside a house in dog carriers.

Some of the 102 surviving dogs have facial scars that indicate they have been involved in dog fighting, Kelly said. Many may prove to be unadoptable.

While visiting the farm, Kelly said, he saw only two dogs that were so aggressive that they made him feel uncomfortable. Most welcomed their visitors.

"They were just happy to have somebody there to feed them," he said.

Kelley said several organizations, including the Oklahoma Alliance for Animals, have begun looking for temporary and permanent homes for the dogs. A representative from the Oklahoma State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners is expected to decide today which ones are suitable for adoption.

News of the discovery has prompted dog lovers in Kansas and Oklahoma to donate 100 bags of dog food to the sheriff's office, Kelley said. Jail trusties have been helping sheriff's deputies deliver food and water to the animals.

Southern is next scheduled to appear in court on Dec. 17 for an attorney status.

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