ASPCA retrieves remaining dogs at suspected dog-fighting farm

Published 12:46 am Friday, November 10, 2017

NATCHEZ — ASPCA representatives arrived on a suspected dogfighting operation on Miracle Road early Thursday morning to retrieve the 30 dogs still there.

Regional director for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, Kyle Held and a driver arrived Wednesday evening in an 18-wheeler equipped to carry up to 82 dogs.

Before loading the dogs, the officers took photos and videos of the area for their own investigation.

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“They’re thorough,” Adams County Sheriff Travis Patten said. “They really came through for us.”

Patten said he and other deputies contacted several agencies while looking for aid in the animal cruelty case that began Monday, but that “many doors were shut” on them.

“When I called (Held), he made it happen,” Patten said.

The property’s owner, Tommie Queen, has been charged with 50 counts of dogfighting, one count of cruelty to animals and one count of receiving stolen property. He turned himself in to authorities Wednesday, spending one night in jail before being released Thursday on bond.

Nine of the dogs initially found on the site had to be euthanized due to the extent of their injuries. Thirty remained at the site because the sheriff’s office could not find a place to house them. Deputies kept 24-hour watch over the dogs, using inmate labor to help feed and care for them until Thursday morning when Held arrived.

At approximately 8:30 a.m., Thursday when the ASPCA representatives had finished all of their preliminary work, they readied to load the dogs.

Each dog received a tag with a number assigned to it. Before a dog was loaded into the trailer, it was first photographed with a placard with the dog’s number on it.

The first dog loaded into the trailer was a pregnant black pit bull deputies had affectionately called Trouble.

Officers loaded Trouble into the heated and air-conditioned trailer, which had video cameras and lights on both the inside and outside so drivers could keep an eye on the animals.

The ASPCA officers said they would not disclose the location where the animals were being taken for fear of the owner trying to retrieve them.

After an inmate trusty took a dog away to the trailer, ASPCA representatives took photos of where each dog was chained and measured the distance between each dog. These distances, Patten said, could help determine the dog’s social climate and how well it got along with other animals.

Along with helping document the potential crime scene and taking care of the dogs, the ASPCA also has a forensic archeologist who can look at the bones found in a ditch behind the residence to determine if the dogs had been mistreated.

Patten said the cold and rainy morning may seem like an ending for the dogs and their lives here in Natchez, but it’s actually a new beginning.

“This isn’t over,” Patten said.

Patten said if any good has come of the tragedy on Miracle Road, it is the unity the community has shown.

“It has been beyond what we expected,” Patten said. “People say a lot about our community, but in times of need Adams County steps up.”

By Thursday evening, the GoFundMe account set up to benefit the dogs had reached more than half of its goal of $50,000.

Donors come from as far as the United Kingdom and the Bahamas, which Patten said demonstrates how major this case is to the county.

Outside of monetary donations, Patten said several people and organizations have donated dozens of bags of dog food and that Magnolia Bluffs hotel volunteered to house the ASPCA officers for free Wednesday night.

Even the New York City Police Department, Patten said, had reached out to see if there was anything they could do for the animals.

“The public and their outpouring of support,” he said. “It was incredible to see.”

Patten said the last four days had been incredibly educational for officers.

“This has changed us,” Patten said. “We’ve learned so much while investigating this.”

Patten said he is sure another dogfighting case will be discovered in his time as sheriff, and when that day comes, he will be ready.

“The people who choose to do this,” he said, “they need to watch out.”