Order filed for cost of seized dogs
by Jule Hubbard
Wilkes County government could soon be the owner of 127 pit bulls seized on Dec. 10 as evidence in a case involving dog fighting.
Chief District Court Judge Mitchell McLean ruled in Wilkes District Court Thursday that the current owner of the dogs, Edward A. Faron of Mertie Road in the Millers Creek area, must pay for the first two months of their housing and other care.
McLean issued the order in a hearing held in connection with Wilkes County Attorney Tony Triplett's "petition for bond" seeking the payment from Faron, 61, charged with felony dog fighting and baiting by the Wilkes Sheriff's Department.
In accordance with state law for this type of proceeding, McLean ordered Faron to pay the money within five business days. It means Faron has until Thursday to pay $52,925, with the money going to Wilkes County government. This includes $36,797 for the first 30 days of care for the dogs, which ends Saturday, and $16,128 as the estimated cost for the next 30 days.
Also in accordance with state law, McLean ordered that the dogs be forfeited to the County of Wilkes and that Faron give up ownership if the money isn’t paid in five business days.
Attorney Brendan Edge, appointed by the courts to represent Faron, said Faron didn’t have the money to pay the $52,925. Faron was present but didn’t speak in court and Edge didn’t make statements for or against the action filed by Triplett.
McLean also ordered that the county continue holding all of the dogs as evidence in the case.
Wilkes Animal Control Director Junior Simmons, who attended the hearing, said earlier that the dogs were being kept as evidence at an undisclosed location until completion of court proceedings in the case. Simmons and other officials haven’t been willing to say where the dogs were being kept due to concerns about possible action by animal rights groups and other security issues.
Faced with the likelihood of county government having to pay for upkeep of the dogs because of Edge’s statement about Faron’s inability to pay, said Triplett, county government officials are talking to the U.S. Humane Society about that nonprofit helping with the cost.
“We are talking with the (U.S.) Humane Society about whether they potentially have funds available that could help offset all or a portion” of the costs of caring for the dogs.
Assistant District Attorney Fred Bauer, prosecutor for the state in the case, said the district attorney’s office was considering county government’s financial burden in planning a trial date in the case. Bauer said authorities are still looking at the possibility of additional charges.
Triplett said the petition was filed on behalf of the Wilkes Animal Control Department. He said that under state statutes, a judge can allow the filing of a new affidavit every 30 days assessing the costs of boarding the animal to a defendant.
Under statutes, said Triplett, Faron could be required to pay the boarding costs even if he won the case.
Simmons said that if the state won the case, the dogs would be euthanized, as called for under the county’s Animal Control Ordinance. He said this was based on the dogs being trained and used for fighting, which he said meant they were considered dangerous.
Arrested at the same time as Faron on Dec. 10 on one felony count each of dog fighting and baiting were Don Juan Casanova, 18, and Amanda Grace Lunsford, 25.
Attorneys were appointed for Faron, Casanova and Ms. Lunsford in Wilkes District Court on Friday. All three have been released from custody under secured bonds of $2,500 each. If convicted, they could be sentenced to between four and 10 months in prison.
Law enforcement officials said the investigation led them to believe Faron was one of the nation’s largest breeders of pit bulls used for fighting, but that authorities have no evidence indicating organized dog fighting occurred on or near the Wildside Kennels property.
Wilkes Sheriff Dane Mastin said the charges were filed under a section of a state dog fighting statute that makes it illegal to possess or provide dogs for dog fighting. “Baiting” refers to harassing a tethered animal.
Mastin said the charges culminated a three-year investigation involving his department, the Wilkes Animal Control Department and the Humane Society of the United States.
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Julie Hubbard wrote the article- email@example.com