Injured pit bulls lead to animal cruelty charges - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Injured pit bulls lead to animal cruelty charges

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BARDSTOWN, Ky. (WDRB) -- A barking dog leads to police finding a big fight among pit bulls -- and ten misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against a Bardstown man.

Local officials say it's one of the worst cases of cruelty they've seen.

On Tuesday, John C. Lewis, 25, appeared in Nelson County District Court, where a judge entered an automatic not guilty plea.  He was released from the Nelson County Jail on $1,000 bond Tuesday afternoon.  His next court appearance is scheduled April 9. 

When police arrived at Lewis' home on Hagan Drive Monday night, they found what they said was a gruesome scene with one dead pit bull and several others seriously hurt in the back yard.

"These dogs had one intention, and they were attacking each other."

Bardstown Police Capt. Tom Roby described what the first responding officer found, in response to a complaint of a barking dog. 

"He could immediately hear dogs yelping and barking. When we went to the property to investigate, he saw one dog was dead or appeared to be dead. He saw one pit bull attacking another pit bull. That pit bull appeared to have broken its chain and was attacking other dogs that were still on its chain," Roby said. 

A veterinarian later euthanized the most seriously wounded dog and treated eight others.

All were pit bulls.

"The skin (was) torn away, flesh torn out, part of an ear removed. Scars all over the face. Punctured intestines, there were some pretty serious injuries," Roby said.

Most of the police images of the dogs are too intense to show on TV.  Police video captured Nelson County animal warden Larry Wimsett struggling to separate two of the dogs with a pole.  Their jaws continued to clench on one another. Eventually the video showed Wimsett stepping on one of the dogs as they finally separated, bloodied and battered.

Lewis' friend, Vinny Calhoun, agreed with police that one of the dogs had broken free from its restraints. 

"I just don't get it. I just don't get it how he got off the chain without somebody messing with the axle," Calhoun said.

He added that a car axle should have secured a heavy chain, which in turn, was attached to a collar on the dog's neck.

Police, the animal warden and local veterinarian Dena Fitzpatrick said the dogs appeared malnourished and did not have enough food or water.  Police brought the dogs food and water before they were seized Monday night, Roby said.  Reporters could see food and fresh water in the back yard on Tuesday afternoon amidst battered cages and plastic containers.

"You can look at the dogs. The dogs got good weight on them. How are they malnourished?" Calhoun responded to WDRB's Chris Turner, who next asked, "Were you breeding these dogs to fight?"

"No sir. No sir. These are not fighting dogs," Calhoun said. 

Police said Lewis also denied "fighting" the dogs.  Capt. Roby noted the conditions and the injuries are consistent with people who train pit bulls to fight.  He said police were pursuing the animal cruelty charges only unless they developed more information about Lewis' intent.

The surviving dogs are held in the Nelson County animal shelter. 

"Larry (Wimsett) told me yesterday the dogs that was actually in the worst... they'll probably be put to sleep because of the scars and all the blood loss and all that," Calhoun said.

It's still unclear just what exactly will happen to the surviving dogs. A judge will have the final decision. Bardstown police ask for your tips as they continue their investigation.

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