Dogfighting suspect Lefonze Williams was ordered Friday to pay more than $13,000 for a month’s care of more than two dozen pit bulls seized in east Mecklenburg County in February.
The $13,698 is for the care of 26 adult dogs and three puppies. It does not include the cost of caring for five puppies that are still being weaned by their mother.
Williams’ fee for the dogs’ care could change depending on how many dogs must be housed and fed.
If Williams doesn’t pay to care for the dogs, the animals will be forfeited. If that happens, the shelter will determine if the pit bulls are suitable for adoption. If adoptions can’t be arranged, the shelter, by law, must euthanize the dogs.
During Friday’s hearing, Mecklenburg Assistant District Attorney Nathan Brooks told the judge that at least 11 of Williams’ dogs had significant injuries consistent with dogfighting.
“He has no business owning that many dogs…,” the prosecutor said. “He’s not properly caring for them.”
But defense attorney Kevin Barnett told Superior Court Judge Hugh Lewis that Williams was not involved in dogfighting. His client is a dog breeder, he said, and has gotten some of his pit bulls from Russia and Europe, and sold some overseas.
“He loves his dogs,” Barnett said.
Barnett asked the judge to allow the pit bulls to be returned to Williams. He said animal control authorities could monitor the care of the animals.
Barnett said Williams could not afford to pay $13,698 to care for the pit bulls.
Williams, 42, of Charlotte, was indicted on 36 counts of dogfighting. Melvin Smith, 46, of Charlotte, was indicted on one count of conspiracy to commit dogfighting. The dogfighting charges each carry punishments ranging from four months to 39 months in prison. The conspiracy charge carries a punishment ranging from three months to 24 months in prison.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police said they found a fighting arena when they seized the pit bulls in February. Authorities said it might be one of the largest dogfighting operations the department had ever investigated.
The judge said $13,698 to care for the dogs “seems large,” but pointed out that anyone who can bring a dog to North Carolina from Russia can afford that fee.
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