CHARLOTTE, N.C. – A judge has ordered the owner of the 27 dogs seized from a suspected dog fighting ring in February to pay for the dogs' expenses while in the care of CMPD Animal Care & Control.
Back in early February, two east Charlotte men, Melvin Smith, 46, and Lefonze Williams, 42, were charged with training dogs to fight after police seized 27 dogs from their home near Hickory Grove.
Now, the 27 seized dogs has grown to 32, due to puppies born since the seizure.
Williams is ordered to housing and care expenses for the dogs in the amount of $14,000. Meanwhile, the district attorney filed a motion for Williams to forfeit ownership.
Williams has five days to pay the $14,000, or he loses ownership.
Should Williams forfeit ownership of the dogs, animal control will decide which dogs are suitable for adoption. If he does not, he will have to appear back in court on May 10.
On February 8, the dogs were discovered when an officer following up on a tip found them behind a home on Carelock Circle, in a yard with a large privacy fence.
The officer could see some of the dogs chained to stakes in the yard. Several pens are visible from the street, along with a blue shed police said was used for training or fighting the dogs.
Along with the dogs, investigators seized equipment for dog training, such as treadmills, heavy chains, mats, and antibiotics and supplements to make the dogs stronger, according to CMPD Lt. JD Thomas.
Lt. Thomas said officers also found two dead puppies.
Most of the dogs had injuries consistent with dog fighting, said Thomas, but none needed emergency treatment.
"It's horrible," said Shannon Corkwell, a supervisor with Animal Care and Control. "These are dogs that seek our attention. They want us to pet them, they want us to play with them -- and somebody's taken them for a blood sport for their own entertainment."
The dogs have to stay at the shelter until the owners turn them over to CMPD, the case is settled, or a judge decides what to do with them sooner.
"Just like any other crime that has evidence, we have live evidence," said Corkwell, "so they'll remain here in our care until a judge makes a determination on their outcome."
Lt. Thomas said the dogs would have to be evaluated before they could be adopted to determine if they're suitable to live in homes. Some could also go to rescues.
In an earlier version of this story, it was reported that the suspect was ordered to pay for the dogs' care to-date. This information was provided by Animal Care & Control, but was refuted by the District Attorney's Office.