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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

THURSDAY - August 4, 2011

DUPLIN COUNTY MAN SENTENCED FOR INVOLVEMENT IN FIGHTING DOGS

RALEIGH - United States Attorney Thomas G. Walker announced that in federal court today United States District Judge Terrence W. Boyle sentenced HARRY LOUIS HARGROVE to 60 months’ imprisonment, the statutory maximum, followed by three years’ supervised release. A Federal Grand Jury returned a Criminal Indictment on November 17, 2010. On March 14, 2011, HARGROVE pled guilty to selling, delivering, possessing, training, and transporting animals for the purposes of having the animals participate in an animal fighting venture, in violation of Title 7, United States Code, Section 2156(b), and Title 18, United States Codes, Section 49.

According to information presented in open court and in the Government’ June 15, 2011, Motion for Upward Departure, during the course of the investigation, law enforcement officers received information that HARGROVE was breeding, raising, training, and selling dogs to fight both in North and out of state. One confidential informant, who has known HARGROVE since 2000, advised law enforcement that: (1) Hargrove was known for his training regimen of fighting dogs; (2) at one time, the informant had seen approximately 150 dogs on Hargrove’s property; (3) Hargrove “rolled” dogs on his property; (4) Hargrove was known to train aggressive fighting dogs; and (5) if Hargrove did not like the way a dog fought or trained, Hargrove would “plug him up.” Specifically, according to the informant, Hargrove fashioned a device by splicing car jumper cable clips with a household electrical cord, Hargrove would attach the clips to the dog and plug in the cord. Hargrove would electrocute the dog until it was dead. After he electrocuted the dog, Hargrove threw the carcass in the trash pile on his property.

On April 8, 2010, and as part of the investigation, the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office arranged for the controlled purchase of a pit bull named “Hugo” from HARGROVE for the purported purpose of fighting the animal. During the transaction, HARGROVE demonstrated Hugo’s fighting ability by having the dog engage in a fight against another dog. During the transaction, HARGROVE described other dog fights in which Hugo had fought.

A search warrant was subsequently obtained and executed at property belonging to HARGROVE. Officers found tools of the dog fighting trade, including a slat mill (a type of treadmill used to condition fighting dogs), a spring pole (used to strengthen the a dog’s jaws), extensive amounts of veterinary supplies, and a blood-stained fighting pit. Thirty-five American Pit Bull Terrier dogs were found in various locations. Some of the dogs were in wire and wooden pens raised off the ground; others were attached to heavy chains anchored to the ground. For many of the dogs, the only protection from the elements (e.g., sun and rain) were empty 55-gallon drums. All 35 American Pit Bulls Terriers had to be euthanized because of injuries or aggressive behavior. Officers also found jumper cables that had been modified to allow for the electrocution of dogs. Officers also found carcasses of dogs in a debris pit on the property.

During the execution of the search warrant, HARGROVE admitted that he had been fighting dogs for 40 years. HARGROVE has been previously convicted of animal cruelty and/or dog fighting in Robeson County, Warren County, and Georgia.

“Dog fighting is an atrocious and unconscionable form of organized criminal activity that must be aggressively prosecuted,” Mr. Walker stated. “The adverse impacts on society from such crimes – from the brutality inflicted upon the animals, to the desensitization of our youth, to increased drug, gun, and other violent offenses around the fights - cannot, and should not be, tolerated.”

"The USDA-Office of Inspector General is committed to the investigation and prosecution of individuals involved in animal fighting ventures. We will continue to work with the U.S. Attorney's Office and other law enforcement agencies for the successful investigation and prosecution of these individuals. The Duplin County Sheriff's Department did a fantastic job in this investigation and we look forward to working with them in future endeavors," stated Karen Citizen-Wilcox, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Southeast Region.

Sheriff Blake Wallace of the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office commented, “We are pleased with the outcome of this case. The cruel acts these poor creatures suffered demands an aggressive prosecution and with the cooperation of the USDA and the US Attorney’s Office a satisfactory conclusion has been attained.”

Investigation of this case was conducted by the United States Department of Agriculture - Office of Inspector General and the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office, with special recognition to the Atlanta Humane Society, Norred and Associates, and the veterinarians for their assistance in the handling and evaluation of the dogs. Assistant United States Attorney Banumathi Rangarajan represented the government.

 

News releases are available on the U. S. Attorney’s web page at www.justice.gov/usao/nce within 48 hours of release.

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