James Lee Peterson

James Lee Peterson

ANDERSON — More than a dozen animals were seized and their owner charged with animal cruelty and animal fighting near Rangeline Nature Preserve.

James Lee Peterson, 42, of Anderson, is charged with Level 6 felony possession or purchase of an animal for fighting, Level 6 felony animal fighting contest promoting, Class A misdemeanor cruelty to an animal, Class A misdemeanor possession of animal fighting paraphernalia and charged with harboring a nonimmunized dog.

This is the second time Peterson has been accused of animal fighting.

Madison County Sheriff’s Deputy John Owen discovered several dogs and chickens with no food or water in the 2100 block of South Rangeline Road during a welfare check Sept. 18.

During the initial visit, Owen reported that there were five dogs on chains and a cage with six chickens on the property. The animals appeared very thin and had open wounds, according to an affidavit of probable cause by Owen.

A mobile home is on the property, but Owen said no one responded to his emergency siren. Because of that, and the dogs were barking and acting aggressive, he did not want to approach the residence.

Owen researched the property and discovered it was owned by Peterson, who was previously investigated by the Anderson Police Department’s Animal Control Division for animal fighting, according to the affidavit.

Kris Ockomon, director of Anderson’s Animal Control, told Owen their investigation could not prove animal fighting although it was suspected, and the Indiana Gaming Commission participated in the city’s investigation, according to the affidavit.

Three days after the original animal welfare check, Owen and an officer with the Indiana Gaming Commission executed a search warrant on the property and seized eight American Staffordshire/pit bull dogs, six chickens and animal fighting paraphernalia, according to the affidavit.

Owen said a 30-pound dog was attached to a 10-pound chain, which is often used to train and condition a dog for fighting and is considered dog fighting paraphernalia, according to the affidavit.

The dogs had open wounds on their heads and bodies in addition to healing wounds and scarring, according to the affidavit. Five dogs were located outside of the mobile home, and three were found inside the vacant residence. Owen said three dogs were confined to cages or crates that were not much bigger than the dogs inside them. One of the dogs had a deformed leg that can be caused by a broken bone that is not treated.

Owen said the dogs were not overly aggressive toward human contact, which is also a trait associated with animal fighting because the handler must be able to handle the animals without being attacked, according to the affidavit.

“The dogs were, however, extremely aggressive toward other animals and would go towards the other dogs as they were being moved,” Owen said in the affidavit.

He said the dogs were so aggressive that when they were placed in cages next to each other, that on two occasions the dogs broke through the walls and began fighting each other and a stun gun had to be used in order to separate them.

“It was apparent to me and all who witnessed the dogs fighting that it was the intent of the dogs to kill,” Owen said in the affidavit.

Peterson contacted Owen after discovering the search warrant on his door and was informed of the pending criminal charges and said he wanted to speak to his attorney before making a statement to authorities, according to the affidavit.

When Peterson was informed one of the charges was for animal fighting, Peterson told Owen that Indiana law says a person must be caught in the act and he doesn’t do that, according to the affidavit.

Owen attempted to contact Peterson the following day, but Peterson did not answer the phone, according to the affidavit. Owen said a search of Peterson’s social media showed numerous pictures, memes and conversations about pit bull dogs. A few of the pictures show dogs, with one post showing a dog on a spring pole, which Owen said is paraphernalia for animal fighting.

Charges were filed against Peterson on Oct. 20, and an order was granted Oct. 28 for the Animal Protection League to determine the disposition of the animals seized, according to court records.

A warrant for Peterson’s arrest was filed Nov. 16, and he was released on pretrial supervision Wednesday.

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