On Monday, July 15, Charvez Nelson Francisco, 50, of Knoxville, Tennessee, plead guilty to four counts of animal cruelty before Judge J. Todd Ross, as part of a plea agreement which dismissed one count of felony dog fighting against him.
Francisco was sentenced to two years probation, 96 hours of community service, a $200 fine, and ordered to pay $700 in restitution to the Hawkins County Humane Society for upkeep of his dogs, according to the Times News.
Francisco’s 21 dogs and 30 chickens were discovered near a suspected dog-fighting training pit during a forest fire in rural Hawkins County in November 2012. But, prosecutors told the Times-News prior to the hearing on Monday that without witnesses or more evidence, a dog fighting case would be hard to prove in a trial.
All of the surviving dogs seized from Francisco were forfeited to the Humane Society, and Judge Ross also issued an order prohibiting Francisco from possessing any other animals without the judge’s permission, except for a family dog named Rex.
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DOGS FOUND NEAR FIGHT-TRAINING PEN DURING FOREST FIRE
On November 17, 2012, firefighters were battling a forest fire west of Rogersville, TN, on Short Mountain, when they found the 21 dogs and 30 chickens on property belonging to Francisco at the end of Tater Hill Road. As the flames spread to the property, the firefighters quickly removed the dogs, but they also contacted the police because of the dogs’ poor physical condition and the suspicious way they were being kept.
Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office Detective John Pruitt stated in the arrest warrant affidavit that nine of the dogs were Pit Bulls, most of which were attached to log chains anchored into the ground by vehicle axles. There were also eight puppies, one Lab mix, one blue tick hound, one beagle and one terrier, the affidavit stated.
At least four of the dogs looked malnourished, Pruitt wrote, and five had unhealed scars on their face, ears, muzzle and throat.
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The blue tick hound and all but two of the Pit Bulls were chained with logging chains — one of which had a two pound weight attached to the chain.
All the other dogs—including the two Pit Bulls--were confined in kennels, except for the male Lab mix, the affidavit stated.
A short distance from the kennels where the dogs were being kept, officers reported they found a square wooden pen, approximately 16-feet wide on each side and four-feet tall, with the bottom carpeted. Sheriff’s investigators alleged that was where the dogs were being trained to fight.
The Hawkins County Sheriff’s Office also alleged that scars on some dogs are consistent with dog fighting.
The Sheriff’s Office stated that the dogs were not aggressive toward humans but were very aggressive toward each other.
Sandy Behnke of the Hawkins County Human Society told the Times News that one of the dogs had to be euthanized shortly after being rescued and two others were later put to sleep due to health problems.
Behnke said there’s no doubt in her mind that the pit bulls were trained to fight.
“These dogs are aggressive to one another,” Behnke said. “None of these dogs can be with another dog. We have to keep them separated, and there has to be a space between them. They’ll attack any dog. They were fought for sure.”
Behnke said the dogs are friendly with humans but are too animal aggressive to be pets.
Short of a conviction for dog fighting, Behnke said the conditions placed against Francisco by the court were what the Humane Society was asking for.
“The pit bulls can never be put up for adoption, and we’re working with some rescues to get them sent to a rehabilitation sanctuary,” Behnke said. “They will stay there the rest of their lives because they can never be around another dog.”
“I’m satisfied with the court’s ruling. as long as he can’t have these dogs back,” Behnke added.
Francisco was found not guilty on six counts of dog fighting by a jury in Hamblen County in 2003 the Times News reports.
Source: Times News