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In August 2017, police, working on an anonymous tip, arrived at a shocking scene in the woods of rural Eastern Georgia.
Police found, across two properties, more than 100 dogs that were malnourished, living in cages or chained up to trees or stakes in the ground. Most of the dogs were injured. And, all belonged to one man, Devecio Ranard Rowland.
It was just days later that investigators learned that Rowland was running a dog fighting operation in Eastern Georgia.
Investigators said Rowland had a history of animal cruelty. He was charged in 2010 with dog fighting, but the case hit a dead end when the main witness couldn’t testify.
This was one of the largest animal cruelty cases in the region. Initially, Rowlands faced 70 misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. But, as the investigation unfolded, the Polk County District Attorney filed more than 200 dog fighting and animal cruelty charges against Rowland.
Our partners, Pit Sisters, took in 21 dogs from the Polk County cruelty case and 18 of them have graduated from the TAILS program, which trains prison inmates to care for and train dogs who have behavior issues.
In April 2018, the case was heard. Rowlands was found guilty of 107 counts of dog fighting and 107 counts of animal cruelty.
The biggest question of the day was if the judge in the case would invoke a hefty sentence against the abuser. The defense argued for a 1 year prison term with credit for the 5 months Rowland had already served. But, the persevering District Attorney wanted much more. He pushed for a 50-year sentence with 20 to serve in jail citing legal precedent from another state's animal cruelty case.
May 15th was the big day - the day of the sentencing. Pit Sisters formed a large congregation and traveled from their Jacksonville, FL base to the Polk County courthouse to show support for the 21 dogs they saved.
By mid-afternoon, justice was finally served.
The Pit Sisters team joins Victoria Stilwell on the steps of the Polk County courthouse wearing Hendrick & Co. shirts.
Not only did Rowland get a total of fifty years (15 years in prison and 35 years probation), but he can never ever own a dog, be with anyone who has a dog and even live in a home with a fenced-in backyard.
This is a great day for the animals who suffered at the hands of their abuser. And, it is a great day for Pit Sisters, for their tireless effort to save animals, particularly animals from cruelty cases.
Watch Victoria Stilwell's live video right after the sentencing hearing: