After reaching a plea agreement, James Peterson was sentenced to two years in prison and one year in the county jail.


ANDERSON, Ind. — A man has been charged with various animal fighting charges after police seized several dogs and chickens from his property.

Police were first alerted of the dogs after someone on a golf cart went by a mobile home on Rangeline Road sometime before September 18. The person alerted police because when they “heard dogs barking and going crazy,” according to court documents.

An Anderson police officer then responded to the home on September 18. Officer John Owen said he did not locate a person on the property but did witness five dogs on chains and six chickens in a cage. According to a probable cause affidavit, Officer Owen did not see any food or water with the animals. He described the dogs as “very thin with observed ribs and open wounds.”

Police later learned the property belonged to James Lee Peterson, 42, and returned to the property with a search warrant on September 21.

Authorities seized eight dogs, six chickens, and fighting paraphernalia from the property. The dogs were all pit bulls and had untreated injuries as well as no food and either no water or dirty water.

The dogs included the five chained animals originally spotted on September 18, plus three inside the mobile home in cages where they were “standing or lying down in feces and urine.” One of the caged dogs had a deformed leg, that an examiner said was indicative of a break that was not treated.

Police say one of the dogs (which was approximately 30 pounds) was tethered to a pole by a 10-pound chain. Court documents say this type of restraint is typically used in dog fighting training.

The wounds on the dogs were in various stages of healing and centered on the head and front of the body, a sign police say is consistent with dog fighting. The chickens also had injuries on their beaks and bodies that a board of health doctor said were indicative or “being scared or startled in their enclosure.”

Investigators say the dogs were not overly aggressive towards human contact but became extremely aggressive towards the other dogs. The dogs were placed in individual compartments in an Animal Control vehicle with steel plates separating the cages.

According to court documents, the dogs reacted so violently when placed next to each other that at least twice, the dogs were able to break through the walls and attack each other.

Witnesses say the dogs were clearly attempting to kill each other, and Officer Owen said he had to use his Tazer on two of the dogs to separate them.

According to court documents, an Animal Control officer on scene said he had never seen this level of aggression before.

“It was apparent to me and all who witnessed the dogs fighting that it was the intent of the dogs to KILL. This type of behavior is not inherent but rather imprinted and conditioned,” Owen wrote in an affidavit.

A doctor who examined the dogs found six of them had a significant amount of bite wounds. The other two had less extensive wounds. All of the dogs had wounds that were in various stages of healing, “indicating a pattern of fighting.”

Peterson was arrested and charged with possession or purchase of an animal for fighting, animal fighting contest promoting, cruelty to an animal, misdemeanor possession of animal fighting paraphernalia and charged with harboring a nonimmunized dog.