Case Snapshot
Case ID: 15191
Classification: Fighting
Animal: dog (pit-bull)
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Thursday, Dec 11, 2008

County: Wilkes

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Convicted

Defendants/Suspects:
» Edward A. Faron
» Don Juan Casanova
» Amanda Grace Lunsford

Case Updates: 5 update(s) available

A three-year investigation by the Wilkes County Sheriff's Office, Wilkes County Animal Control agency and The Humane Society of the United States culminated in the Wednesday raid of "Wildside Kennels," an alleged dogfighting operation in McGrady, North Carolina.

A man believed to be the owner of the operation and two others were arrested. Each was charged with one count of felony dogfighting and baiting; additional charges are pending.

Authorities found suspected dogfighting paraphernalia on the property and seized 127 dogs. Several dogs had scars consistent with dogfighting.

The apparent owner of the operation, Ed Faron, was previously convicted of dogfighting and is reportedly one of the 10 most influential figures in the underground dogfighting circuit. He is known as breeder of pit bull bloodlines that have a strong following in the criminal underground of dogfighting nationwide.

Faron co-authored a book on how to breed and raise dogs to be used for fighting that contains graphic accounts-supposedly fictional-of gruesome injuries inflicted or suffered by dogs used for fighting.

"The raid of this suspected dogfighting operation is the culmination of an extensive investigation, and dogfighters everywhere should worry that they could be next," said Chris Schindler, deputy manager of animal fighting law enforcement for The Humane Society of the United States.

"We are grateful to the Wilkes County Sheriff's Office and Wilkes County Animal Control department for acting quickly and efficiently against this suspected dogfighting operation."

It is a felony to possess a dog for the purpose of dogfighting in North Carolina. Those involved in illegal dogfighting can receive four to 10 months in prison.

"Numerous pieces of intelligence have been gathered throughout this three-year investigation thanks largely to the hard work of Wilkes County Animal Control Director Junior Simmons," said Wilkes County Sheriff Dane C. Mastin. "I'm not only glad to see that something good came out of this case, but I'm also proud to know that justice will be served."

Major dogfighting raids such as that of Wildside Kennels are successful due to multi-agency collaboration. Dr. Melinda Merck, forensic veterinarian and leader of the American Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals' CSI Unit, assisted with the raid and evaluated the seized dogs for evidence of animal fighting. Additionally, Charlotte Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control assisted with handling and transporting the dogs.

The Humane Society of the United States offers up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in animal fighting. This reward program has been made possible thanks to a grant by the Holland M. Ware Charitable Foundation.


Case Updates

Wilkes County Animal Control destroyed 146 pit bulls yesterday, following a judge's order.

The dogs were associated with Wildside Kennels, whose owner, Ed Faron, 61, was convicted last week of 14 felony counts of dog fighting.

Authorities seized 127 of the dogs in a raid on Faron's property on Dec. 10, 2008. The rest of the dogs were born after the raid. The county had acknowledged that some litters had been born, but yesterday was the first time that the county released the actual number of dogs involved.

According to a ruling Monday by Judge Ed Wilson Jr. of Superior Court, state law defines dogs as dangerous if they are involved in a dog-fighting operation, and a county ordinance requires that dangerous dogs be destroyed.

The raid was the result of a three-year investigation by the Humane Society of the United States, in cooperation with Wilkes County Animal Control and the Wilkes County Sheriff's Office. Representatives of the Humane Society told the judge that the dogs should be destroyed, because they had been bred for generations to be aggressive.

A number of animal-rescue groups had offered to place the dogs, but none of their representatives were at Monday's hearing when the judge was considering what should happen to the dogs.
Source: journalnow.com - Feb 18, 2009
Update posted on Feb 19, 2009 - 1:37PM 
Superior Court Judge Ed Wilson ordered this morning that 127 pit bulldogs seized in a Dec. 10, 2008 raid in Wilkes County be euthanized. The dogs were seized at Wildside Kennels on Mertie Road near Millers Creek.

The judge heard arguments from several individuals in Wilkes Superior Court, including representatives form the Humane Society of the United States and the prosecutor, that the dogs would pose a threat if adopted into families. Members of several animal advocacy groups, as well as individuals, had asked to be allowed to adopt the dogs.

The ownership of the dogs was awarded to the county when the owner of Wildside Kennels, Ed Faron, 61, of Mertie Road failed to pay the county for the care of the animals.

Faron was sentenced to 8 to 10 months in prison last week after pleading guilty to 14 counts of felony dog fighting.­

Donni Juan Casanova, 18, was given a suspended sentence of six to eight months after entering a guilty plea of to one count of felony dog fighting. Casanova is the adopted son of Faron.

The third defendant in the case, Amanda Grace Lunsford, 25, was sentenced this morning to 45 days, suspended for 24 months of supervised probation. She entered a guilty plea to a misdemeanor count of cruelty to animals.
Source: Journal Patriot - Feb 16, 2009
Update posted on Feb 16, 2009 - 1:37PM 
A nationally known pit-bull breeder based in Wilkes County pleaded guilty yesterday to 14 counts of felony dog fighting and was sentenced to 8 to 10 months in prison, according to the Wilkes County Clerk of Court office.

The breeder, Ed Faron, 61, also must serve a lengthy period of supervised probation when he gets out of prison, and may not own, possess or care for any dogs, as part of the plea agreement. Exact terms of the probation were unclear yesterday.

Faron is to report to prison on March 5. His adopted son, Donni Juan Casanova, who was also arrested in the raid, pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of felony dog fighting, according to the clerk's office. Casanova was sentenced to a six- to eight-month prison sentence that was suspended, and he was ordered to serve 24 months of supervised probation, including six months of intensive probation.

Wilkes County has possession of the 127 pit bulls that were seized in a raid on Faron's Wildside Kennels property in a mountainous area off Mertie Road on Dec. 10. The county was awarded custody of the dogs by a judge last month after Faron failed to pay nearly $53,000 the county had asked for their care. A large number of puppies have since been born, and the dogs are being held at undisclosed locations.

The court file yesterday did not include notice about the disposition of the dogs, according to the clerk's office.

John Goodwin, the manager of animal-fighting issues for The Humane Society of the United States, said yesterday that a judge will decide the fate of the dogs later. The Humane Society worked for three years on the investigation, in cooperation with Wilkes County Animal Control and the Wilkes County Sheriff's Office.

Goodwin said that Faron was one of the nation's largest breeders of fighting dogs and wrote a book many consider to be the bible of the underworld of fighting dogs.

"I think this is showing dog fighters that even their godfathers are being prosecuted and sent to prison," he said.

Goodwin said that the dogs have been bred for fighting and it would very difficult and expensive to re-train the dogs, even the puppies, so that they could be adopted.

County officials have said that the dogs would be euthanized. Officials did not return a phone message yesterday.

"I think there's a county ordinance that requires it," Goodwin said. "It's not a matter of would, could or should. It's the law."

Other animal advocates believe that the dogs should be adopted to homes. Best Friends Animal Society, which runs one of the nation's biggest animal sanctuaries, has offered to have the dogs spayed or neutered and to assist the county with placing them.

"To make the judgment that all these dogs are dangerous, solely on basis of their breed, is simply wrong," Ed Fritz, a spokesman for Best Friends, said in an e-mail.

Best Friends has been working to rehabilitate 22 of the pit bulls seized in the Michael Vick dog-fighting case, a continuing work that has been featured on the National Geographic Television series DogTown, which is set at Best Friends' 3,700-acre animal sanctuary in Utah.

Sheila Carlisle of Morganton said she has been helping to care for the grown pit bulls and many puppies, and that the dogs are adorable.

"I've fallen in love with them," she said. "I don't want to cause anybody any problems with the court system, but I want these dogs saved."
Source: journalnow.com - Feb 13, 2009
Update posted on Feb 13, 2009 - 12:28PM 
A Wilkes County dog breeder pleaded guilty today to 14 counts of felony dog fighting as part of a plea bargain, and was sentenced to 8 to 10 months in prison, according to the Wilkes County Clerk of Court office.

The breeder, Ed Faron, also must serve a number of terms of supervised probation when he gets out of prison and may not own, possess or care for any dogs, as part of the arrangement.

Faron is to report to prison on March 5.

Wilkes County owns the 127 dogs seized in a raid on Faron's property on Dec. 10, 2008. A number of puppies have also been born since the raid.
Source: Winston-Salem Journal - Feb 12, 2009
Update posted on Feb 12, 2009 - 4:51PM 
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.

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.
Source: JournalNow.Com - Jan 15, 2009
Update posted on Feb 11, 2009 - 12:51PM 

References

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