Tuesday, November 2, 2010

PDL man charged with 37 counts of animal cruelty - Update

EBRO — The Washington County Sheriff’s Office did not release any new information Monday about 33 dead greyhounds found at the dog track three days earlier.

Sheriff Bobby Haddock did not return numerous calls for comment and Sheriff’s Office personnel said an incident report had not yet been completed.

The park’s assistant general manager, Mark Hess, also did not return calls Monday, but said on Saturday that he is cooperating with an investigation into the dogs’ deaths.

Deputies arrested the man responsible for the dogs, 36-year-old trainer Ronnie Williams of Ponce de Leon, on Friday night after Pari-Mutuel Wagering Department officials discovered the carcasses, along with four live but emaciated dogs.

Gaming officials responded to the park after receiving complaints from residents about the smell of decaying animals coming from the kennels, according to a WCSO news release.

Williams faces 37 felony charges of animal cruelty, according to the release, and was being held on a $54,000 bond.

Three of the four “near death” greyhounds had duct tape around their necks, which had to be cut away to allow them to breathe, the release said. All four dogs were treated by veterinarians on site; it is not clear whether they survived the weekend or what their current conditions might be.

Williams raised suspicion with a local adoption agency, Greyhound Pets of America’s Emerald Coast chapter, when he delivered eight underweight dogs to the group early last week. Members notified the national chapter, the National Greyhound Association and the state’s Pari-Mutuel Wagering Department, GPAEC board member Roger Spencer said.

Both GPAEC and track officials have repeatedly told trainers they would take or adopt out any animals the trainers could not move out of the park’s kennels after the end of the racing season Sept. 25. GPAEC also provides food for trainers who are in need, Spencer said.

The nonprofit has adopted out more than 700 dogs this year and has not turned away any animals, he added.

Earlier coverage
EBRO — A greyhound trainer is facing a charge of animal cruelty and may face additional charges as the investigation into the deaths of at least 20 dogs at Ebro Greyhound Park continues.

The dogs were found dead in the kennels at the track Friday by investigators with the Florida Department of Pari-Mutuel Wagering who were looking into a complaint they received from a greyhound adoption agency.

Trainer Ronnie Williams was arrested by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office on Friday and on Saturday was facing at least one charge of animal cruelty, Mark Hess, assistant general manager of the park, said. Hess said more charges are expected.

It is not immediately known exactly how many dogs died or when and how it happened. Officials have said they are waiting on necropsy results, but the complaint that triggered the investigation was spawned by underweight dogs being turned over to Greyhound Pets of America, Hess said.

Calls to Washington County Sheriff Bobby Haddock were not returned and personnel at the Sheriff’s Office said no one would be available for comment on the case until Monday. They also refused to release Williams’ mug shot until Monday.

The Pari-Mutuel Wagering Department would only confirm and investigation into the death of several dogs was under way at Ebro.

At the end of the racing season, which closed Sept. 25, the park returned each dog’s documentation to the trainers and gave them 60 days to remove their dogs from the kennel either by putting them up for adoption or moving them to another track. Hess said he did not know how many animals Williams had at Ebro. At least 20 dogs are dead.

Five dogs were found alive in the kennel. Four of them are being held by the state and are doing well and one was taken to a veterinarian for immediate care, Hess said.

Individual trainers are contractors with the track and are responsible for their own kennels and the health of their dogs, Hess said. Ebro and state officials inspect the kennels at random during the season, but have not done a sweep since the track closed. During the season Williams’ dogs were healthy and winning important races, Hess said.

“We’re shocked, appalled, pissed off and all around disappointed,” Hess said.

Ebro is cooperating with the investigation, he added.

The red flag on Williams and his dogs went up on Monday when he delivered eight dogs to Greyhound Pets of America’s Emerald Coast chapter, GPAEC board member Roger Spencer said. The group had been advised Williams would be bringing 10 dogs and combined with the thin condition of the eight, they notified their national chapter and the National Greyhound Association on Tuesday and Wednesday and then the Pari-mutuel Wagering Department on Thursday.

The situation is especially perplexing because the dogs were not abandoned, Hess said. Williams continued to come to the track daily and turn out two dogs, telling other trainers he only had those two animals left.

Hess and Rogers expressed frustration because this did not have to happen. Both Ebro and GPAEC have told trainers repeatedly they will take any animals they are not able to move to other tracks or adopt out themselves. GPAEC also makes food available for trainers who are in need.

“We thought we had an excellent working relationship with the people within the compound and we do for the most part,” he said. “There’s no indication why this man ignored our promise and plea to take every greyhound.”

This is not the first time Williams has had a run in with track officials. Hess said Williams is a “troublemaker” and had been told before the close of the season his contract would not be renewed in the spring. He declined to be specific, but said previous problems did not involve neglect of the dogs.

Rogers said GPAEC has adopted out more than 715 dogs this year and has not turned away a single animal. This is a record for the group as the economy has caused many trainers to “grade off” substantial numbers of dogs.

Press release
EBRO — Washington County Sheriff’s Office reports the arrest of a Ponce De Leon man on 37 counts of felony animal cruelty in one of the most disturbing cases of cruelty to animals the Washington County Sheriff Office has ever investigated, according to a news report from WCSO.
On the evening of Friday, Oct. 29, gaming officials responded to Ebro Greyhound Park after receiving complaints by residents in reference to the smell of decaying animals coming from the kennels on site. After arriving and assessing the status of the animals, gaming officials immediately contacted Washington County Sheriff’s Office.
Investigators with WCSO responded to the scene and found 37 dogs in the kennels. Of the 37 dogs, only 4 were found alive, but near death. 3 of the dogs had duct tape around their necks and had to be cut away to allow them to breathe. All 4 surviving dogs were treated by veterinarians on site.
Ronald John Williams, 36, of Ponce De Leon, was arrested and charged with 37 counts of felony cruelty to animals.  Williams was transported to Washington County Jail where he is being held on $54,000 bond.

1 comment:

Karyn Zoldan said...

The abuse this man provoked on innocent animals is beyond belief.

Many things need to change such as the culture among race people, management's attitude of getting involved, and more so the state of Florida's regulations towards racing greyhounds welfare.

It's too late for these 37 dogs who suffered beyond belief. Let's ensure other greyhounds will be spared.

Get involved. Educate yourself by visiting GREY2KUSA dot org. Take action for the dogs because they cannot do it themselves.