Society

Dog Fighting: Avery Bell, Arrested in 2012 Tennessee Bust, Pleads 'No Contest'

| by Phyllis M Daugherty

Avery Bell, 54, of Ashland City, is the second of four men to enter a plea in an operation called, “one of the largest dog-fighting operations in Tennessee.

Bell and two other men charged in the case, Gary Phelps, 50, of Ashland City, and Arsenio Williams, 29, of Nashville, were scheduled to go to trial on Tuesday, but the trial has been postponed.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Cheatham County Sheriff's Office arrested four individuals for their involvement in an alleged dog fighting operation in Ashland City.

Avery Bell, 54, James Callis, 31, Gary Phelps, 50, and Arsenio Williams, 29, were each charged with 60 counts of animal cruelty and one count each of animal fighting and aggravated cruelty to animals.

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Bell was additionally charged with setting fire to personal property and burning without a permit.

So far new court dates for Phelps and Williams have not yet been set. Bell's sentencing hearing is set for April 14.

As The Times reported last week, a fourth man charged in the case, James Callis, 31, of Ashland City, pled no contest on Jan. 17 to four charges: one felony count of animal fighting and three misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals. His sentencing hearing is set for April 17.

BACKGROUND

On Thanksgiving night in 2012, the Ashland City and Pleasant View fire departments responded to a brush fire at Bell’s residence on Buckeye Road in Ashland City.  That is when they discovered 60 dogs—most of them Pit Bulls and some Beagles—without access to food or water and needing medical attention.

Cheatham County Animal Control was called to remove all the dogs from the property. The dogs were surrendered to CCAC and later relocated to an emergency shelter in Lebanon.

A search warrant was executed shortly thereafter and led to the discovery of dog-fighting paraphernalia on the property, including a treadmill, a spring pole and weighted sled, authorities told the Times.

All four suspects were booked into the Cheatham County jail.  Their bond was set at $50,000 each.

Sources: Tennessean, WKRN