Janice Morse reports:
A string of unusual animal-cruelty cases has left Butler County officials perplexed and outraged.
Prosecutor Mike Gmoser didn’t mince words when discussing three recent incidents, which come on the heels of disturbing farm-animal deaths, some of them violent, earlier this year.
“We’re concerned about the cruelty to the animals. It’s just an ugly practice, and it’s illegal,” he said Friday. “…This is America, where we prohibit dogfighting and cockfighting, and things of that nature.”
A man is accused of raising roosters to sell them for cockfighting – possibly the county’s first such case since 1966, Gmoser said. Butler County Sheriff Richard Jones said authorities have videotaped evidence and a confession from the suspect.
There also are two recent horse-maltreatment incidents, one involving attempted poisoning and another alleging malnourishment.
Such situations are troubling not only because of the harm to the animals but also because perpetrators often go on to later harm people, Jones said.
Despite the recent spate of cases, Jones said he doesn’t think his county has more of a problem than other places. “It goes on everywhere and it’s usually in the shadows. It’s just that we’re fortunate that we’ve got technology and people who are coming forward about it,” Jones said. “Don’t come here and think you can abuse any animals and call it sport. You won’t get away with it.”
The most recent incident was this week at the county fair, when an unidentified person was seen pouring something into horses’ drinking water. “Nobody likes the idea that you’ve got a whack job out there, poisoning animals,” Gmoser said. “I’m not a psychologist but I doubt this guy is hurting a horse because he got thrown off of one.”
Gmoser doesn’t know the motive but he thinks whoever fouled the horses’ water is likely upset with people and is taking it out on the horses. “It’s horrible. Here’s a horse on a hot day, just wanting a drink of water, and this happens,” Gmoser said.
Before someone realized the water was tainted and removed it from the area, three horses drank it, Gmoser said. One suffered mouth irritation but the other two seemed OK, he said.
On Monday, a couple faces a jury trial on animal cruelty charges after two horses were found dead and another was found malnourished on their Hanover Township property, officials said. The couple, Debora and Kenneth Morgan, couldn’t be reached for comment but they are fighting the charges and representing themselves, officials at Butler County Area I Court, Oxford, said.
That’s the same court where David Wayne Smith of Wayne Township is to appear Aug. 22 to face charges of animal fighting and animal cruelty in connection with an alleged cockfighting-breeding operation, court officials said.
Gmoser alleges that Smith was breeding roosters for cockfighting, as “a business enterprise.”
Smith’s lawyer, David S. Washington Jr., said authorities haven’t yet provided him with information about the case against his client.
But Jones said a witness turned over a videotape to authorities, showing Smith allowing prospective rooster buyers to watch the animals demonstrate their fighting abilities. “They put razor blades on the end of their feet and they make them fight to the death. They lose their eyes, they lose their beaks,” Jones said. “It’s very gruesome, nasty – and they refer to it as a sport. They do it clandestinely, in the dark.”
Animal cruelty is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to three months in jail and a $750 fine. A judge may prohibit an offender from being around animals.
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