Officials with the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Department have arrested a man after finding five dead dogs on his property and nine more that had been chained to trees and starved.
Deputies originally responded to the area in reference to a neighbor who said he could not get out of his residence because a pit bull was acting aggressively toward his family. The man told deputies that several other dogs were chained up at the nearby property that looked as if they were not being cared for properly.
Kevin Lamont Johnson, 38, of Conway was charged with five counts of aggravated animal cruelty, which are felony charges.
Investigators believe Johnson also may have been involved in a dog-fighting ring.
According to Sgt. David Hall, evidence found at the home at 9 Edgewater Cove indicates the dogs may have been bred for fighting.
"We found dogs tied to trees that had been starved as well as dead dogs on the property, most of which are breeds that are known to be used for dog fighting such as pit bulls and Rottweilers," he said. "The animals we found, along with other evidence, is consistent with the possibility of the animals being used in a dog fighting ring."
Hall said the department has also received an anonymous tip that Johnson may have been involved in a dog-fighting ring.
"We received a tip and looked into the possibility of a dog fighting ring and while we are still investigating the possibility, we believe that the dogs may have been bred for the fighting rings here but taken to another county for the fights."
Johnson told investigators that he was only raising the dogs as pets and was not involved in fighting rings. He also indicated that he had been trying to feed the dogs every other day but hadn’t been to the property in some time.
"Johnson told us that the dogs were being kept on property that his girlfriend leases and that he had been unable to tend to them in some time," Hall said.
Of the nine dogs that were rescued, two have died since being removed from the home. Johnson had two other dogs at his residence that investigators said were clean, well fed and cared for.
Hall said the charges against Johnson stem from the findings of abuse that a veterinarian detailed when he examined the dead dogs.
"The dogs that were examined showed signs of scars and marks that indicated to the vet that they had been abused," Hall said.
Capt. Matt Rice said that an animal cruelty case of this nature is not something the department deals with very often.
"We get calls every day about an animal that seems malnourished or neglected and half the time when we look into it, it isn’t true," he said. However, this is the first time I’ve ever heard of animals being chained to trees and left to die."
The area off of Acklin Gap Road has been investigated in the past by an Atlanta security firm that specializes in corporate investigations, Norred and Associates, Inc. The firm, according to its director of special operations, Chuck Simmons, also specializes in dog fighting ring investigations.
Simmons said that in May of last year, an anonymous individual used the firm’s dog fighting tipline to alert the firm of the condition of several dogs that were on property near Adelaide Cove, just northwest of 9 Edgewater Cove.
"Our first pictures were from an informant that was on the property legitimately," Simmons said. "The informant caller told us that he has also seen paperwork related to dog fighting along with the dogs."
Photos of dogs on the property near Adelaide Cove obtained from a private investigator showed scarring that Simmons said was congruent with dog fighting.
There were also dead dogs in the photos that the firm received, according to Simmons.
"With the dead dogs and the scarring, it was clear that the dogs were used in fighting. Even without that, the scarring and emaciation alone were indicative of animal cruelty."
Simmons said that Norred and Associates contacted the Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office and provided Hall with the initial tip and photo evidence.
According to Rice, an FCSO investigator responded twice to the address that was given in a packet from Norred, however, the address related to the allegations was at Adelaide Cove.
Rice said that there were no findings at the address when an official investigated last year.
In an earlier interview, Maj. Andy Shock, public information officer for the FCSO, said that the case had been closed due to a lack of evidence, facts and and witnesses.
Johnson was released from the Faulkner County Detention Center on Nov. 18 on a $5,000 bond.
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