A northwest Georgia man was convicted on Thursday of 214 counts of felony dog fighting and misdemeanor animal cruelty, after officials last August rescued 107 pit bull type dogs from deplorable conditions in a training camp.
All the dogs were tethered to trees or chained to axles driven into the ground on Polk County property, District Attorney Jack Browning told GPB News.
“The dogs were constantly about 2 feet from each other, which kept them in a constant state of agitation,” he said.
Heavy chains that weighed up to 30 pounds forcibly built the dogs’ neck muscles, Browning said. Growth supplements, steroidal medication and an underground “professional” dog fighting training video were found on the property.
The producer of the video is a known and convicted dogfighter, Browning said.
Each animal needed medical attention. Many were reduced to skin and bones, with only a bowl of rainwater nearby and no food in sight.
“We found in that area what is referred to as a ‘rape bracket,’” Browning said.
Training dogs to fight makes them aggressive toward each other.
“It looked like a medieval torture device,” Browning said. “The female is strapped in for breeding.”
The property on Cashtown Road in Aragon had been under investigation since a February 2010 tip led officials to discover suspected animal cruelty and file charges against Devecio Ranard Rowland. Those charges never yielded a conviction because the main witness did not testify.
But when Polk County sheriff’s deputies, police and volunteers from rescue organizations discovered more than 100 dogs in August 2017, Rowland, then 32, was arrested.
The sheriff’s office posted a video on Facebook showing the state of the dogs, many of which still seemed to long for human affection.
Rowland was charged under a Georgia law that says it is a felony offense to possess a dog with the intent of dog fighting, Browning said.
“We found the wood that is used to construct a dog fighting ring,” Browning said. “The training video describes how to make a fight pit, which we found on his front porch.”
Dogs were turned over to rescue organizations and many were able to be rehabilitated and put in foster homes. The case is unlike anything Browning said he has prosecuted in Polk County since he started in 2013.
“The rescue community in Atlanta is tight and there was a call for help from the ladies who volunteer at the Polk County animal shelter,” Kimberly Murphy of BarkTown Dog Rescue said.
Her organization took in three of the abused dogs, including an older female dog, Grace, who had been terrorized by breeding and terrified of other dogs.
After being slowly integrated with other dogs over the last six months, Grace got the news that her foster family was ready to adopt her into their home permanently. The news came the same day as Rowland’s conviction.
“It feels like justice has been served for these dogs,” Murphy said. “They’re the ones that went through the horror and someone needed to be their voice. We were all thankful for the outcome of the trial yesterday.”
Two dogs from the case placed by BarkTown Dog Resuce in foster homes have not been adopted and are in need of forever homes, Murphy said. Anyone who wants to help can email firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I think the sentencing is the most important next step to make sure he is punished for what he did,” Murphy said.
That comes May 15, when Browning said the judge could sentence Rowland to prison for the rest of his life.
“On felony dog fighting counts he faces a range of 1 to 5 years and the misdemeanor animal cruelty counts are up to a year,” Browning said. “That’s a total maximum of 642 years.”