21 dogs seized from apparent fight training facility

Josh Cascio reports

- A report of an injured dog led Hernando County deputies to an apparent breeding and training facility for dog fighting.

The Hernando County Sheriff's Office said animal enforcement officers went to a home on Leonard Street about an injured dog, where they found a badly injured pup in a cage under the house. The person deputies said lived in the house said he was taking care of the dog for a friend and had been feeding it, but animal control officers didn't find any evidence of food or water.

A vet later determined the dog was used as a bait dog during dog fights and had likely been fought within the past few days.The dog had oozing wounds and exposed muscle, bone and tendons, as well as puncture wounds and infection.

Deputies went to a neighboring home and said they found the breeding and training facility for a dog fighting operation. The person at the home, who said he did not live there, was wearing a shirt reading No Luv Kennels and gave deputies permission to look around.

Deputies found 22 adult pit bulls and six puppies.

They went back to the home where the injured dog was found and arrested 61-year-old James Harris for animal cruelty for not providing care for the injured dog under his house.

Three days later, a search warrant was served at the second residence. Deputies arrested 53-year-old Darryl Smith and charged him with felony animal cruelty and felony bait animals.

Animal control officers seized 19 dogs and two puppies. They said several dogs were attached to chains weighing as much as 15 pounds, and others were caged in makeshift dog cages. There was no food in sight and algae was in the water that was present.

The sheriff's office described the conditions as deplorable.

Many of the dogs weighed less than 30 pounds, and some wore chains weighing more than half their body weight.

Deputies and animal enforcement officers also found injectable antibiotics, saline solution, distemper and parvo shots, body builder for dogs, wound care medicine, needles and syringes, cattle wormer, hip and joint tablets, electrolyte solutions, red cell builder, muscle builder and underwood horse medicine, which is only used by veterinarians. 

They also found items which point to training dogs for fighting. They found pulling harnesses - which are used to make dogs pull heavy items, break sticks - which are used to separate dogs while fighting, pull ropes hanging from trees - which are typically used to train dogs to jump, grab, and hang on, several gallons of milk - used to coat dogs before a dog fight to neutralize dangerous chemicals placed on dogs that could cause harm when bitten by a dog, and a bait cage - used to put small animals in to agitate fighting dogs.

The dogs were removed from the scene and taken to Hernando County Animal Services where they were evaluated by a vet.Once evaluated and treated for any injuries, all dogs were treated for fleas, vaccinated, and fed.

All dog fighting equipment was seized from the property.

Smith was held on a $4,000 bond. The case remains under investigation and additional charges are pending.

Meanwhile, Hernando County Animal Services is overcrowded due to the seizure and are offering their adoptable pets for $10 starting Thursday. HCAS said no animals were euthanized to accommodate the seized dogs and there are many adoptable dogs, cats and rabbits available now for only $10.

For more information on and photos of adoptable pets, visit https://www.facebook.com/HernandoCountyAnimalServices, call (352) 796-5062 or email ac@HernandoCounty.us.

Hernando County Animal Services is located at 19450 Oliver Street in Brooksville, behind the County Fairgrounds. Shelter hours are Tuesday through Friday from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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