Animal abuse at forefront

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2005

VIDALIA &045; Lisa Smith is appalled by the condition of a pit bull now in custody at the Concordia Parish Animal Welfare Shelter.

Found this week with a six-pound weight around its neck, the dog will have to be destroyed, Smith said.

&uot;He’s obviously been fought and will have to be euthanized,&uot; she said.

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But Smith is glad that something good has come from the incident: renewed attention to the issue of animal abuse in Concordia Parish.

&uot;Our deputies always take immediate action when they spot an animal that’s starving, beaten or wounded,&uot; Concordia Parish Sheriff Randy Maxwell said. &uot;But they’ve all been put on additional alert. Any dog that’s seen with weights, huge ropes, logs or anything out of the ordinary tied around its neck &045; the owner or caretaker will be arrested on the spot.&uot;

Two Ferriday men were arrested this week after deputies saw them leading a pit bull terrier down Louisiana 568 with the six-pound weight around its neck. Maurice J. Sheppard, 25, 209 Georgia Ave., was charged with cruelty to an animal, possession of Schedule II drugs with intent to distribute, resisting an officer and flight from an officer. His bond was set at $36,500.

Efaunte B. Morales, 19, 903 Delaware Ave., was charged with possession of Schedule II drugs with intent to distribute, resisting an officer and simple escape. His bond was set at $58,000.

Maxwell said both suspects tried to elude officers, running across a field toward Clayton when they were stopped on the highway.

Smith said dog fighting is more common in the parish than some might think.

&uot;It’s really a problem in this area,&uot; she said. &uot;There are organized fights.&uot;

Weights around a dog’s neck mean the animal is being built-up and trained for fighting, Maxwell said.

&uot;These animals are being abused by this training, and the dog-fighting itself is abusive and illegal,&uot; he said.

Dog fighting often involves illegal drug use and gambling, and weapons are also common at dog fights, Smith said.

What’s more, abuse of animals can indicate abuse in other situations, Smith said.

&uot;It indicates violence in the home,&uot; she said. &uot;It’s people acting out.&uot;

Anyone who sees an abused animal is encouraged to call the sheriff’s department.

&uot;Dog fighting is extremely cruel and sadistic, even though some people consider it a ‘sport,’&uot; Maxwell said. &uot;I’m hoping that anyone who knows this is going on in their neighborhood or knows of someone involved will give us a call.&uot;