By Ed Brock
Police found the decaying bodies of two dead dogs and dog bones scattered among beer bottles at a suspected dog-fighting pen in Jonesboro.
The plywood pen was found in some woods off Hastings Way in the Hastings Ferry subdivision. A well-worn path led from the pen to the backyard of a rental house from which Clayton County Police Capt. Jeff Turner said four pit bull terriers were confiscated Thursday after being found to be in extremely bad condition.
Gary Miller, 42, was charged with four counts of animal cruelty in connection with the condition the dogs. He has not been charged with fighting dogs, Turner said, but the confiscated dogs had suffered from bites and injuries consistent with dog fighting.
In order to charge somebody with dog fighting they essentially have to be caught in the act, Turner said.
The dogs remained at Clayton County Animal Control Friday.
It was unclear who owned the land on which the pen had been built. Turner said it could be part of a large, empty tract owned by Georgia Power but that Georgia Power said they had sold the property to the rental company that owns Miller's house.
The pen itself was about 20 feet by 20 feet with moldy carpet on ground inside.
"It was a well constructed fighting pit," Turner said.
Police came to Miller's home on Friday to execute a search warrant and had to kick in the door when nobody answered a loud call to come let them in. They found Miller in the attic.
Miller lived in the house in the quiet, upscale neighborhood with his wife and their two daughters and son.
Shortly before police arrived a young girl and boy got off a school bus and entered the home, the girl pausing to check the mail before meandering down the driveway. They seemed to look at a marked patrol car that was parked nearby with an officer monitoring the house.
A minute or two later a woman in a red car pulled into the driveway, took a shopping bag out of the trunk and walked into the house. She had come back out with the two children and was leaving when police arrived.
The woman and children were momentarily detained and then allowed to drive away.
Behind the house and just into the woods behind the backyard was the area where the four confiscated dogs had been found. There was a wooden doghouse, two igloo-shaped plastic doghouses and two or three plastic barrels modified to serve as shelters along with some chains around nearby trees. Empty bags of dog food lay on the ground and a barrel contained some food. Nearby lay an empty hydrogen peroxide bottle.
"I know he does have a lot of dogs," said a woman who lives near Miller and who asked not to be identified.
The woman said she had called police last week about people walking to the house with dogs that may have been pit bulls that were not on leashes. She also heard dogs barking and noise coming from the house sometimes around 2 a.m.
"I just did my own business because this is a good neighborhood," the woman said.
She also mentioned that Miller told her he kept medicine for the dogs on hand rather than taking them to a veterinarian, saying it was "cheaper that way."
Another neighbor, who also asked not to be identified, said she often saw a lot of cars coming and going and heard loud music coming from the house.
"I'm a school teacher. I'm shocked," the woman said as she watched police search Miller's home. "I came home and I'm wondering what is happening in my neighborhood."
Turner said the fighting pen would be destroyed. The bodies of the two dead dogs, brownish animals that were identified as pit bulls, may have been there for three to four weeks.
"The losers are just discarded," Turner said.