Thursday, January 15, 2009

Wilkes may keep dogs- NC Wildside Kennels

Published: January 15, 2009

WILKESBORO - The owner of 127 pit bulls seized in a raid last month has until 5 p.m. today to pay $52,925 for the care of the dogs or the dogs will be forfeited to the Wilkes County government, according to a court order.

There are more than 127 dogs now, because several of the dogs have had litters. The dogs are being held at undisclosed locations because authorities say they are valuable evidence in a criminal investigation.

If the dogs' owner is found guilty, the dogs that were seized will be euthanized, county officials said. County officials said they have never had puppies born to dogs that were seized. They will ask for a court ruling on the disposition of the puppies and the other dogs.

"The legal status of the dogs is they're being held as evidence in a criminal case," County Attorney Tony Triplett said. "We can't do anything with them until a judge orders otherwise."

The dogs were seized from Ed Faron, 61, the owner of Wildside Kennels, during a raid Dec. 10, 2008, at his home off Mertie Road in the mountains of northwest Wilkes County. Faron, along with his son, Donni Juan Casanova, 19, and Amanda Grace Lunsford, 25, whose relationship to the family was unclear, were arrested. Each has been charged with felony dog fighting.

Faron declined to comment yesterday when reached at a phone number listed for Wildside Kennels. "Right now is a bad time, I'm sorry," he said.

The raid capped a three-year investigation by the Humane Society of the United States, in cooperation with Wilkes County authorities.

The chief judge of Wilkes District Court, Mitchell McClean, ruled last Thursday that Faron had until today to pay for the first two months of the dogs' housing and care. The amount includes $36,797 for the first 30 days and an estimate of $16,128 to keep the dogs through Feb. 10. The money includes the cost of transportation, kennels, food, and veterinary and other expenses.

A trial date is set for March 4. It is possible that the trial date could be moved up.

The county will own the dogs if Faron doesn't meet today's deadline.

"It doesn't mean we're going to do anything with them, it means his right to claim any right to the dogs and their ultimate disposition ends," Triplett said.

Even if Faron is acquitted, the dogs would still belong to the county if he doesn't meet the deadline.

If he were found guilty of dogfighting, the dogs would be deemed as dangerous by state law. County ordinances say that dangerous dogs should be destroyed by animal control.

According to court records, an informant said that Faron had talked about certain of his dogs having been involved in fights. The informant said that Faron talked about how a dog named Vader had scars from fights he had been in, and that Faron would hide the dog when Animal Control Director Junior Simmons came to the kennel.

In addition to the dogs, authorities seized break sticks, leashes, collars, business records, two glass pipes with marijuana residue and $7,140 in cash, among other items, according to an inventory of items from the search of Faron's property.

The day after the raid, authorities said it appeared that Faron was a major breeder of pit bulls for fighting, but that his property was not a place where people gathered for dog fights.

Damon Geller, a dog lover who lives in Los Angeles, said in an e-mail that he has bought two family pets from Faron.

"Ed knows how to breed good dogs that are a respectable and honorable representation of the breed," Geller wrote. "He is not a dog fighter nor does he breed dogs for people to fight."

John Goodwin, the manager of animal-fighting issues for the Humane Society of the United States, said yesterday that he couldn't recall a case in which puppies were born to dogs after the dogs were seized. Still, he said, such puppies would probably be euthanized if the owner is convicted of dog fighting.

"It's kind of tough with the puppies, because the characteristics that the dog fighters want are selected for by breeding," he said.

He said that the Humane Society uses an expert who could evaluate the dogs and puppies if the county decides to have them evaluated.

■ Monte Mitchell can be reached in Wilkesboro at 336-667-5691 or at mmitchell@wsjournal.com.

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