JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Wednesday wasn’t the first time animal control officers have dealt with the owner of more than a dozen dogs that were confiscated from a Westside home and placed into protective custody, according to court records.
The owner, who News4Jax is not naming because he has not been charged, would not agree to a recorded interview until he has hired a lawyer but told News4Jax he does not live on the property on Exline Road near Old Middleburg Road and was only keeping his dogs there. He also said he had no idea about the investigation until he showed up at the home and saw officers searching the property.
Court documents reveal he had numerous run-ins with animal control since 2008. Two weeks ago, he received a notice about a noise complaint involving his dogs. That complaint from neighbors, who long suspected the noise had something to do with dogfighting, is what led to the current investigation.
Last year, he received eight citations because his dogs were not vaccinated for rabies. Each citation came with a $255 fine.
Eight years ago, he received two citations for failing to vaccinate his dogs and found guilty of a charge of animal neglect.
In 2008, he received a citation for allowing an animal to run at large. According to investigators, one of his pit bulls got free and attacked another dog in Jacksonville’s Duclay neighborhood. The citation states the dog that was attacked in that case was severely injured.
The dog owner maintains his innocence.
The night before officers with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and Animal Care and Protective Services raided the Westside property on Wednesday, an emaciated pit bull mix that was visibly injured showed up in neighbor Katie Crews-Martin’s driveway, she told News4Jax.
“They looked like punctures. They were dots. There were older one and newer ones,” she said. “I strongly believe that it did come from that location.”
News4Jax confirmed that when officers showed up Wednesday to carry out their search warrant at the Exline Road property, there were some dogs that were roaming the property and not tethered or sitting in a cage. News4Jax was told that at least one managed to make its way off the property.
Animal control is in contact with Crews-Martin to see whether this is another element to its investigation.
A look at dogfighting investigations
Jim Crosby is a former Jacksonville police officer who is now one of the nation’s leading experts on investigating cases of dogfighting.
He said that if the police don’t catch a suspected dogfighter in the act, the next best thing to get a conviction is the “totality of circumstances.”
“In other words, everything added together can only be answered by one thing and that’s dogfighting,” he said. “And that’s how we’ve been able to send people away to prison.”
Crosby also said suspicious wounds can sometimes point to dogfighting.
“We examine and document where they are, how many there are, what age the wounds are, whether they just happened or been a while,” Crosby said.
This, along with suspected dogfighting paraphernalia, helps investigators build their case.
Crosby also said the average dogfighting case can be so complex that it can take up to two years before it’s adjudicated in court.