Saturday, August 15, 2009

Arrested jailer denies pit bulls were used for fights

Pair charged with cruelty to animals in Whitehaven

A corrections deputy accused of dog fighting and animal abuse denied on Friday that he fights the 14 pit bulls taken from his Whitehaven home.

Jamario Taylor, 30, and Franchesca Morgan, 36, were arrested Thursday when Memphis police officers investigated a complaint at 5254 Whitworth and found the dogs either in the house or chained in the back yard.

Taylor and Morgan were charged with a dozen counts of cruelty to animals, 14 counts of keeping an unvaccinated dog and one count of animal fighting.

"I am not a dog fighter," Taylor said Friday evening. "They want to stereotype anyone with pit bulls as a drug dealer or dog fighter."

According to a police affidavit, a dozen of the dogs appeared to be malnourished, others were chained so that they were standing in mud several inches deep, and six had what appeared to be bite wounds.

Detectives also found a dog treadmill, weight sled, mattresses that appeared to be blood-stained, and break sticks, which are used to pry fighting dogs apart.

One of the sticks was inscribed "Screw PETA," apparently a reference to the animal rights group. Four dog fighting magazines were also found.

Standing outside his house, Taylor said he raises pit bulls and enters them in dog shows. He said he has been showing dogs since 2003 and showed off several trophies and ribbons. He also had a magazine that pictured him with a prize-winning pit bull on the cover.

"I don't have vicious dogs," he said.

Taylor also denied that any of his dogs were malnourished. He said the treadmill and weight sled were used to strengthen his dogs for shows.

The blood on the mattress was from his dogs, Taylor said, explaining that on Thursday he broke up a fight between two dogs, got blood on his hands and accidentally wiped the blood on the mattress.

"(The dogs) are part of our family," Taylor said. "They live in the house and they sleep in the bed with us."

Neither Taylor nor Morgan could supply documentation that the 14 dogs had been vaccinated.

Taylor has been a jailer since 2005. He has been relieved with pay, pending an investigation.

The Shelby County Sheriff's Office will begin its own investigation to determine if any departmental policies were violated, said spokesman Steve Shular.

Taylor has had several disciplinary infractions since he joined the department for paperwork and attendance issues and not being in proper uniform when arriving for work, Shular said.

Morgan and Taylor have each posted $10,000 bond.

A police spokeswoman said she didn't know what connection the suspects had to each other.