Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19533
Classification: Fighting
Animal: dog (pit-bull)
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Thursday, Mar 29, 2012

County: Delaware

Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Rahsaan Ahmad Johnson

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

City police got more than they bargained for Thursday when they raided a northeastside mobile home believed to be connected to a local dog-fighting operation.

Authorities found a total of 25 pit bulls, some held in kennels in the squalid trailer and an adjacent garage, others chained in the property's back yard.

If the battle scars of some of the animals weren't enough indication, investigators said they found equipment in the mobile home, at 2407 N. Blaine St., that is commonly associated with the training of fighting dogs.

Included were at least four treadmills, some specifically designed for use by dogs, with chains to secure a canine's collar to the forced-exercise device.

Authorities are expected to seek a warrant for the arrest of the man believed to be keeping the dogs on the property, on charges that could include promoting dog fighting and multiple counts of cruelty to an animal.

After police entered the trailer, Phil Peckinpaugh, director of the Muncie Animal Shelter, and members of his staff removed the 25 dogs, including a few pit bull puppies.

Peckinpaugh said he had arranged for eight dogs to stay at a local kennel, with the remaining 17 dogs bound for the city animal shelter. He said he would also likely seek the assistance of pit bull rescue organizations in the Indianapolis area.

Canines seized in dog-fighting raids are frequently euthanized because of the tendencies brought on by their training.

"It's not certain," Peckinpaugh said. "Each dog will have to be looked at. ... Some are terrified. Some have been used as bait."

City police officers winced when they saw the condition of one such "bait" dog, believed to be used to train other pit bulls to attack. That animal's front legs appeared deformed, likely the result of being kept in a small cage for most of its life, authorities said.

Two veteran city officers, Mike Engle and Jay Turner, said they could not recall more than a half-dozen canines being found at other raids of suspected dog-fighting locations.

"I've never seen an operation like this," Turner, who for years worked with a K-9 partner, said of the Blaine Street property.

Engle said an investigation of the alleged property owner recently began after tips from two federal agencies. The U.S. Customs Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported the man had purchased pit bulls from a seller in the Dominican Republic.

Police believe they found both of those animals on Thursday.

Authorities did not know where the man was keeping the dogs, however, until Thursday, after the city building commissioner's office apparently received a complaint about an inordinate amount of dogs living in the Blaine Street mobile home.

Officials from the building commissioner's office and the Delaware County Health Department had already examined the trailer, apparently from the outside, before police arrived Thursday, and posted notices declaring the structure unfit for occupation.

A walk through its interior made it clear that no human was living in the mobile home on a regular basis, with each of its rooms full of small kennels -- most containing pit bulls -- and the exercise equipment, along with bundles of newspapers to be shredded for use in the kennels.

The only piece of furniture appeared to be a chewed-up couch; the only working -- perhaps -- appliance was a mini-refrigerator.

On a kitchen counter was a search warrant signed by Delaware Circuit Court 2 Judge Alan Wilson that gave police authority to "search for and seize evidence and the fruits of the crime of animal cruelty."

The loud barking of dogs began when police knocked on the trailer's front door about 2:15 p.m. and continued for much of the afternoon.

Many of the dogs appeared eager for human contact, while others were timid and frightened.

Some of the smaller dogs were carried to waiting Animal Shelter trucks by Peckinpaugh and his staff.

"Come on," one of the workers said quietly to one of the pit bulls who appeared reluctant to leave its kennel. "You're on vacation now."

Other dogs, seemingly delighted to be out of their kennels or off their chains, excitedly pulled at leashes held by animal shelter workers.

The workers used bolt-cutters to free some of the dogs chained in the back yard. Two of those animals were especially large with enormous heads, and were likely the primary fighters of the group, police suggested.

At least two other properties linked to the man believed to be responsible for the Blaine Street operation were searched by police on Thursday, but no other pit bulls were found, according to Engle.

The presence of the puppies suggest efforts were under way to breed fighting dogs, police said.

Peckinpaugh said the recent discovery of three dead pit bulls -- two in trash containers, and one along a local street -- had raised fears that a dog-fighting operation was in place locally.


Case Updates

City police on Wednesday publicly identified the man they believe was responsible for the alleged dog-fighting training facility raided last week.

And they're asking for your help in finding him.

While a warrant has yet to be issued for the arrest of 35-year-old Rahsaan Ahmad Johnson, authorities believe they have probable cause to apprehend him on preliminary charges including cruelty to an animal and promoting dog fighting.

City Police Sgt. Mike Engle said anyone with information on the whereabouts of Johnson should call the Muncie Police Department's investigations division at (765) 747-4867.

Authorities on March 29 raided a ramshackle mobile home at 2407 N. Blaine St., where they seized 25 pit bulls, some found in small crates scattered throughout the trailer and an adjacent garage, with a few others chained in the property's backyard.

Also found was dog-exercise equipment and other materials commonly associated with dog fighting.
Source: thestarpress.com - Apr 4, 2012
Update posted on Apr 4, 2012 - 9:43PM 

References


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