Dogfighting local problem, humane society director says

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sunday’s seizure of two pit bulls that appear to have been fighting recently is representative of a local problem, said Georgia Lynn, president of the Vicksburg-Warren Humane Society.

“Dogfighting is prevalent in Warren County and the city,” she said. “We get a lot of calls about dogfighting. Mostly, what we see are the dogs that have been discarded. A couple of months ago, we got a call about dogs being disposed of in a bayou in Marcus Bottom.”

Lynn, who has been the humane society’s director for seven years, said she was asked by Vicksburg officials to assist in the assessment of the two dogs picked up at a home on Speed Street Sunday. She said she saw the dogs Monday, but declined to discuss her findings.

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The two pit bulls were taken from the 518 Speed St. home of Shawn Porter, 37, who was arrested along with Joseph Hall, 39, 2616 Pearl St., when both were charged with felony dogfighting. Both men were in the Warren County Jail this morning, each on a $2,500 bond.

Police Sgt. Sandra Williams said the arrests followed a tip.

The dogs were taken to Vicksburg Animal Shelter, where they are to be held for at least 10 days of observation. The findings will determine what happens to the dogs, said Vicksburg Animal Control Supervisor Eldridge Skinner.

“We went to pick the dogs up because the police called us on this situation,” Skinner said.

Unlike Lynn, Skinner — who has worked in animal control for 24 years — said he does not see a recurring problem with dogfighting.

“I’m not saying it’s not going on, but we just don’t see it,” he said.

He said when the dogs were captured, they appeared to be “friendly to people,” however, “from the looks of them and the scars, they’ve been in fights.”

The dogs, about 30 pounds each, have old scars and fresh cuts to their faces.

One appeared to have a fresh laceration near its mouth, as well as old scars on his forehead. The other, a brindle-stripe dog, appeared to have a new cut above its right eye, as well as scars on its forehead. What’s not clear is whether the dogs had been used in organized or staged fights, which usually involves betting.

Williams said the dogs were not fighting when officers arrived and they were not chained or locked up. She also said the department had received no report of discarded dogs being found in Marcus Bottom.

Following the dogs’ evaluation, they could be put up for adoption, euthanized or returned to their owners, Hall and Porter, depending on the outcome of the charges against them.

Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace said his office has had reports of dogfighting.

“A lot of dog fights are in rural areas where there are little patrols,” he said. “We have made felony arrests involving the training of dogs for fighting in past investigations. We depend heavily on the public’s input.”

Lynn said some people who call her office do not necessarily notify law enforcement authorities. “We get numerous calls, but it’s hard to catch them in the act,” she said.

Lynn said the humane society has a 24-hour drop-off, where she said she has seen many animals scarred, giving the appearance that they have been used for fighting, but currently has no pit bull at the facility on U.S. 61 South.

In November 2007, 17 pit bull terriers suspected of having been used in dog fights were seized from two properties along Mississippi 27 two miles apart. No arrests were made.

In 2004, a Warren County man was charged with training dogs. Nine pit bull terriers and equipment, including treadmills and neck chains were seized by Warren County deputies in that case.

The defendant, Jon Brown of Beeline Drive, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years under the supervision of the Mississippi Department of Corrections.

Felony dogfighting carries a penalty of a maximum three years in prison and fines from $1,000 to $5,000, Williams said.

Governments in Mississippi, including the Hinds County Board of Supervisors, have discussed the possibility of banning pit bulls, a breed historically used for fighting.

Contact Manivanh Chanprasith at