Dog-fighting – 11 adult dogs and 5 puppies seized

AUSTELL, GA: The 16 pit bulls were tethered with logging chains. Attached to each dog’s collar were two 5-pound weights to help them build neck and leg strength for fighting. They had no bedding, even when outside temperatures dropped below freezing. They had plenty of wounds. But no food.

The 11 adults and five puppies were malnourished and underweight when police raided the 5-acre dog-fighting training center on South Gordon Road in Austell on Monday. Michael E. Sweeney, 45, and Erik M. Vann, 28, both of Austell, were each charged with 16 counts of animal cruelty and dog fighting, a felony in Georgia, police said. The information about the dogs and the conditions is outlined in arrest warrants.

The animals were taken to Cobb County Animal Control, said Officer Cassie Reece, a spokeswoman of the Cobb Police Department. Acting on a tip from the Humane Society of the United States, police raided the property after a two-month investigation. Vann told police that he and Sweeney had been involved in dog fighting “for a couple of months,” according to Vann’s arrest warrant. Dog-fighters put weights on dog’s collars as a way of “strengthening the dogs’ necks and rear legs,” according to the warrant.

Police also found 105 grams crack cocaine, which was packaged for sale, a Mossberg 12-gauge shotgun, and a .22 caliber Ruger revolver at the property., according to the warrants. Sweeney and Vann also were charged with cocaine trafficking, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and theft by receiving stolen property – the Ruger.

Police also arrested five people on misdemeanor marijuana possession charges. They were: Barbara J. Jennings, 42; Kimberly J. Jenkins, 40; and Esther E. Bravo,39, all of Austell; and Lasunda S. McQueen, 25, of Selma, Ala.; and Jackqulin N. Bagley, 33, of Sylacauga, Ala. Bagley also was charged with giving a false name and date of birth. They were being held at the Cobb County jail.