By MIKE STUCKA
GORDON, GA — Authorities said they seized 70 dogs and found the decomposed remains of several more Thursday morning in raids on suspected Wilkinson County dogfighting operations.
One female dog’s right ear had been nearly ripped in two, and both its ears were covered in what appeared to be dried blood. Nearby, a tawny-colored male dog staked out with a short heavy chain was so emaciated its ribs and vertebrae were showing. Those dogs were among the 57 seized from 5006 Ga. 57 near Owens-Shepherd Road.
Dogs found behind a house Thursday on Ga. 57 in Wilkinson County wait to be taken for treatment after law enforcement officers made arrests in suspected dogfighting operations. Below are other dogs found on the properties.
Another 13 dogs were seized from 113 Miller St. in Gordon, where Police Sgt. Andy Hester said the property owner didn’t know about the dogs being kept on his property.
But at the Ga. 57 site, Christopher “Tony” Antoina Williams, 41, was arrested at his home on a single charge of misdemeanor cruelty to dogs. Sheriff Richard Chatman said Williams ultimately could face a charge for each abused animal found on his property.
Speaking briefly with reporters near his chained-up dogs before his arrest, Williams said, “I don’t dogfight. I definitely don’t.”
Gordon police also arrested a man in their case and will file 13 animal cruelty charges, Hester said. But he said he would not release the man’s name until he completes an arrest warrant today.
Law enforcement officials said they have not discovered ties between the two locations.
All of the animals are being taken to an undisclosed location by the Atlanta Humane Society, which is having veterinarians evaluate and treat the dogs. Chuck Simmons, an investigator with Atlanta security company Norred & Associates, said some puppies can be rehabilitated, but other dogs can’t be. He didn’t know how many could be adopted.
“It’s way too early to tell that,” he said.
Hester said the Gordon site was the city’s first suspected dogfighting bust in a decade. A female dog’s teeth were filed flat, possibly to reduce injury to male dogs, an Atlanta Humane Society worker said.
Hester said the dogs aren’t vicious.
“They’re all nice, sweet dogs, very affectionate,” he said.
Chatman said the case in unincorporated Wilkinson County was unprecedented.
“This magnitude of dogs, we’ve never run across it,” he said.
But deputies had been out to that property before. Chatman said several years ago deputies chasing a burglary suspect had discovered a dogfighting ring in the back of the property. That had been put under observation, but the ring is now overgrown and not used, with no evidence of fighting there, he said.
“We never substantiated anything by that,” Chatman said.
The pit, a 16-foot square made of plywood, remains standing near the back of the property.
Simmons said he’d received a tip about the Wilkinson County sites, investigated, and passed the information on to the law enforcement agencies. The company runs a toll-free animal cruelty hotline, (877) 215-2250.
Simmons said he’d found the scattered, decomposed remains of six or seven dogs in the woods, several hundred yards past the dogfighting ring.
Most of the living dogs were staked out on the property with a short length of heavy chain, which scraped the ground. Most dogs had an improvised shelter, a plastic storage drum with a hole sliced in one end, but did not have food and water bowls. Two empty bags of dog food were nearby. Few dogs barked or growled. Many wagged their tails or put their tails between their legs.
An old stroller was abandoned near most of the dogs.
Piles of toddlers’ toys and bicycles were left near the alleged dogfighting ring. Besides debris, about 20 cars also covered the rural Wilkinson County property.
Chatman, who himself owns four pit bulls, said officers will meet with prosecutors today to try to finalize the charges.
“Some of the dogs were not as bad as we thought. There were some that needed medical attention. And there were others that appeared to me to be in good health. All of them were very docile,” the sheriff said. He paused. “They all wanted somebody to pet them.”
To contact writer Mike Stucka, call 744-4251.