Two men accused of unlawful dog fighting entered not guilty pleas Tuesday at separate hearings in Miller County.
Christopher Tremayne Harper, 26, and Jaquavian Jaqwon Johnson, 18, both appeared on Circuit Judge Kirk Johnson's docket for arraignment Tuesday. Jaquavian Johnson is charged with unlawful dog fighting while Harper is charged with unlawful dog fighting and aggravated cruelty to a dog. Judge Johnson scheduled both defendants to return to court for pretrial hearings May 9.
Animal control officers received a report Jan. 13 at about 1 p.m. from Miller County dispatchers regarding people fighting dogs on East 11th Street, according to a probable cause affidavit used to create the following account. Officers made contact with two men at East 11th and Louisiana streets. One of the men was in possession of a red and brindle pit bull with "ears cut back all the way to its head."
Cutting the ears off of a dog is a practice among dog fighters who don't want other dogs to latch onto an ear during a fight. The dog's owner, who allegedly identified himself as Jeremy Brooks but was later identified as Harper, claimed he bought the canine with ears already removed. The dog yelped when touched on the side of the face and the owner was given until Jan. 17 to take the dog to a vet for treatment.
Less than an hour later, officers were dispatched to a home in the 2600 block of East 10th regarding dog fighting. Officers observed a large bottle of hydrogen peroxide in the rafters beneath the home's porch canopy, "which is consistent with people who regularly fight dogs," the affidavit states.
A woman allegedly approached the officers and began shouting at them and using profanity. The woman allegedly told investigators the dogs belong to her son, Jaquavian Johnson. Jaquavian Johnson allegedly denied his dogs had been fighting but a white pit bull in his backyard had "bloody punctures on his abdomen, side, back and chest as well as a swollen right cheek and gum on his right muzzle," the affidavit states. According to the affidavit, the dog with the cut ears had not been taken for treatment as of Feb. 1 and officials believe the dog was being neglected.
Both men were arrested in early February. At the time, Jaquavian Johnson was free on a $40,000 bond on charges of residential burglary and theft of property alleged to have occurred Dec. 22. Residential burglary is punishable by five to 20 years in prison, a fine up to $15,000, or both. Theft of property is punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
Unlawful dog fighting and aggravated cruelty to a dog, cat or horse is punishable by up to six years in prison, a fine up to $10,000, or both.