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Fighting Animals Found In Johnston County Face Uncertain Futures

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JOHNSTON COUNTY, N.C. — An old form of entertainment is creating a new type of crime victim. They're animals, caught up in the violent world of fighting for sport.

The animals' owners are often arrested for other crimes, in addition to the fighting. When they're hauled off to jail, their helpless victims are left to a fate that's sometimes worse than their life in captivity.

The Johnston County Animal Service has become a de facto clearinghouse for more than 100 fighting animals in just the last five days.

"No, we're not set up for this," said director Ernie Wilkinson. "We're set up to care for animals that are problems, and lost and abandoned in Johnston County."

Last Friday, 47 pit bulls were brought to the county's shelter and the owner was arrested, after a deadly shooting investigation led to the discovery of an illegal dog-fighting ring. Three days later, in a different case, 55 fighting chickens were found abandoned during a drug investigation. While the two cases are in court, the animals are staying at the shelter at the taxpayer's expense.

"They have to be fed, they have to be watered, they have to be cared for," said Wilkinson. "And really that's all we can do at this point in time."

The situation is particularly grim for the chickens.

"These are classified as fighting animals," said Wilkinson. "We wouldn't dare adopt out a fighting animal. I would say (they're doomed)."

Adoption rules don't bode well for the dogs, either.

"It's our policy in Johnston County, at the request of some of our judges, not to adopt pit bulls or Rottweilers in the county, and we haven't done that," said Wilkinson.

That leaves their fate up in the air, despite the fact that several people have called WRAL since the animals' stories first aired. It's the fallout from a growing culture of animal fighting in North Carolina.

"The best way to care for these animals is to eliminate them being used in this type of manner," said Wilkinson. "Let your local law enforcement know. Let them know so you can make a difference."

A new law in North Carolina could force the owner of the dogs to pay for their care, should the judge rule that way. If the animals are taken from the owner, the only way they'll be adopted is if a rescue group steps in to help, and that's not guaranteed.



Gerald Owens, Reporter
Greg Clark, Photographer
Dana Franks, Web Editor

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