Dogfighting update

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 11, 2011

Felony charges follow dog fight investigation

By Emily Williams

For the first time in C. Gaines Baker’s memory,  charges of felony dog fighting are being prosecuted in Panola County.

“I’ve been doing this for 20 years and I’ve never seen a case of dog fighting,” Baker, the county prosecutor, said Tuesday after four defendants made an initial appearance in Panola County Justice Court.

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Appearing before Judge Bill Joiner were two men charged by the Panola County Sheriff’s Department with conducting and promoting dog fights in the Curtis community on March 2.

Also in court were two others charged with being spectators at the dog fight. All four defendants will go before a grand jury on the felony charges.

Randy R. Robinson, 11 Lamar Thomas Rd., Batesville and Desmond Robinson, 21 Lamar Thomas Road, were charged with felony dog fighting.

Terrance Milton Ellis, 109 Jones St., Courtland, and Keithdrick M. Taylor, 74 Main St., Courtland, are charged with being spectators at a dog fight

Originally the defendants were charged with animal cruelty but the charges were amended to felonies based on investigation and observation, Deputy Sheriff Earl Burdette said.

Deputies, acting on a tip, responded to reports of dog fighting in progress on Lamar Thomas Road last week.

 The dogs had been separated when deputies arrived but bite marks were apparent on both animals.

Two pit bulls where seized by deputies at the scene. One is being treated at a local veterinary clinic and the other is being housed at an undisclosed location.

“We will not tolerate animals being deprived and fought,” Baker said.

The penalty for felony dog fighting is one to three  years in prison. Spectators can be sentenced to a year in prison and fined from $500 to $5,000.

Dog owner charged

with cruelty

In a related case, Melanie Robinson, 21 Lamar Thomas Rd., Batesville, owner of the dogs, was charged with four counts of neglect and animal cruelty and was taken into custody during justice court Tuesday.

After court, Sheriff’s Deputy Bobby Billingsley drove to Robinson’s residence to retrieve the other dogs. They had been moved – despite Billingsley’s warning to the woman in court not to have them moved.

Robinson’s dog “Trigger” is being cared for at Family Pet Hospital by veterinarians Leigh Taylor and Justin Unruh.

“She’s a real sweet dog and already gained weight,” said Leigh Taylor Unruh.

Unruh said the only thing wrong with the dog is the apparent wounds from fighting but she should heal with proper care and nourishment.

No animal shelter

Panola County does not have a shelter for unwanted animals or a holding facility for dogs confiscated, said Panola County Humane Society secretary/treasurer Kim Strickland.

“We need a holding facility especially to take care of these aggressive dogs,” said Strickland.

The local Humane Society has been working for years toward building a shelter in Batesville, but both city and county governments have stalled in committing to help fund and maintain a facility.

Last week’s dog fighting arrests and subsequent confiscation of dogs has focused attention on the county’s lack of an animal shelter.

Humane Society representatives plan to go before the Panola County Board of Supervisors on Monday to ask for funding for a shelter and holding facility for confiscated dogs.

Neighboring Lafayette County has an active Humane Society and a recently-built animal shelter, where many unwanted Panola animals end up.

Strickland said 835 dogs were sent to the shelter in Oxford from Panola County in 2010. As is the case with many shelters overrun with unwanted animals, Strickland estimates that most of the dogs taken there from Panola County – about 85 percent – were euthanized.

Another missing pup

A concerned dog owner came into The Panolian office Thursday to place an advertisement asking for the return of her puppy which she suspects was stolen from her home on Good Hope Road Wednesday between noon and 1 p.m.

The mixed-breed pup was not a pit bull but might have been mistaken for one, she said. She suspects that dog fighting activity occurs in her area.

The Good Hope Road pup is the latest in a string of missing – and supposedly stolen – dogs reported to The Panolian. All the owners fear their missing pets may be subjected to clandestine dog fights in rural areas in the county.

If dog fighting is suspected or if you know where a stolen dog is being held, call the Sheriff’s Department at 662-563-6230 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-729-2169.

People who call Crime Stoppers do not have to give their name.

If information leads to an arrest, the person providing the information will receive a cash reward through the assigned identification number.