Prosecutor gets tough Laura McPhee Animal rights activists around the city are celebrating a partial victory in their efforts to see law enforcement officials prosecute felony dog fighting charges against those who continue to view this type of animal cruelty as sport. Twenty-three-year-old Mark Taylor of Indianapolis was convicted of two Class B misdemeanor animal cruelty charges and was sentenced to six months in the Marion County Department of Corrections last week. In September 2003, Indianapolis Police Department officers responded to a call about illegal dog fighting in Spades Park on the city’s near-Eastside. Upon their arrival, officers witnessed approximately 15 individuals run from the scene, including Taylor, who was fleeing with a pit bull. Though Taylor originally gave police false identification and claimed he was not the owner of the dog, neighbors informed officers that Taylor kept two pit bulls in his backyard in poor conditions. According to the police report, “Both dogs were thin and kept in highly unsanitary conditions. Both animals also had bite wounds and scars that are signs of dog-fighting wounds. The dogs were both approximately 4 years old, weighing less than 50 pounds, with clear signs of malnutrition. One of the dogs was found to have more than 1,000 scars across its face, neck, body and legs. Despite the fact that the police witnessed the dog-fighting attendees flee the scene and the evidence of fighting found on the dogs, Indiana law requires more tangible evidence of organized dog fighting in order to get a felony conviction. While the police report recommended dog-fighting charges, and prosecutors did file those charges, Taylor was ultimately convicted only of two Class B misdemeanors for the condition of the animals. “There is a lot of confusion about how the law is interpreted,” according to Amy Lyons of the pit bull advocacy and anti-dog-fighting group Indy Pit Crew. “The way the law reads, you must have the scars on the animals, but you also have to have some type of paraphernalia like a dog ring, or medication, or a paper trail. There wasn’t that type of tangible evidence in this case.” Lyons and other animal rights activists are still celebrating, however. “To get six months for animal cruelty is remarkable. The entire courtroom was stunned when the judge announced the sentence. The prosecutor, Catherine Janeway, did a great job.” Janeway hopes to get a felony conviction against Elmos Jewell next month. Jewell now faces approximately 20 charges of dog fighting, animal cruelty and animal neglect. The pre-trial hearing is scheduled for May 22, with a jury trial set to begin June 14. “There seems to be all the evidence necessary to make sure the felony dog-fighting charges stick this time,” according to Lyon. “Indy Pit Crew and other groups are really hopeful now that Catherine Janeson is handling these cases for the Marion County prosecutor.” For more information on Indy Pit Crew and their efforts on behalf of pit bulls, go to www.indypitcrew.org. For more information about dog fighting in Indianapolis, read Mary Lee Pappas’ award-winning NUVO cover story from June of 2004, “Blood Sport: Dog Fighting in Indianapolis,” in the NUVO archives at http://www.nuvo.net/archive/2004/06/02/blood_sport.html.