Twenty-six alleged fighting and breeding dogs and one cat were rescued from a Washington County home Wednesday, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, which conducted the rescue.
Billy Taylor Jr., 52, was arrested in conjunction with the rescue, which took place at a residence on Ohoopee Church Road in Oconee, Washington County Sheriff Thomas Smith said. Taylor will be charged with multiple counts of cruelty to animals and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, Smith said. Taylor previously was convicted of forgery in De-Kalb County in 1998.
The rescue and arrest is the result of a four- to six-month investigation into animal cruelty at the residence, Smith said. Sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant at 8 a.m. Wednesday.
“We arrived at the residence and found several dogs that were living but were in terrible conditions,” Smith said. “These dogs were used for dog fighting, and you could see their ribs. They had broken bones.”
In addition to the rescued animals, which were of mixed breeds, 27 dogs were found buried on the property, Smith said. “It was just terrible — the worst I’ve ever seen and probably the largest animal cruelty case I’ve ever seen in the county,” Smith said.
The ASPCA’s Field Investigation and Response Team from New York, in conjunction with teams from the United Animal Nations and Sumter Disaster Animal Response Team, assisted in the rescue. When the teams arrived, the dogs had no food, water or significant shelter and were tied up with long, heavy chains that were staked to the ground, said Tim Rickey, the Field Investigation and Response Team’s senior director.
The rescued animals were taken to an emergency shelter where veterinarians are treating them. All the dogs are emaciated and undernourished, and some suffer from other problems and wounds, according to a news release. Rickey said he believes they can save most of the animals. A forensic veterinary team is excavating the grave sites at the residence to determine causes of death.
While the rescued animals are not available for adoption, financial donations can be made on the ASPCA’s Web site, www.aspca.org, to help with the case. Both Rickey and Smith encourage the public to report animal abuse. “We want this to be a warning today to people who are using dogs to fight,” Smith said. “We are going to be more involved in dog fighting cases and dog fighting reports.”
To report dog fighting or animal cruelty in Washington County, the public may contact the sheriff’s office at (478) 552-4795. Animal cruelty nationwide may be reported on the ASPCA’s Web site.
To contact writer Jennifer Burk, call 256-9705.