Police make third arrest in Columbia pit bull theft case

COLUMBIA, SC (WACH) - Police say they have arrested a third person in a string of burglaries at the Columbia Animal Shelter.

Authorities say Dezmon Jones, 25, turned himself in at Columbia Police headquarters Tuesday afternoon. He faces multiple charges including second-degree burglary.

Jones and three others, Raven Perry, 17, and two 13-year-olds are suspected of breaking into the shelter over the course of three straight weekends starting in late January and stealing more than a dozen pit bulls. Police are still looking for one of the teens.

Investigators say Jones is seen on surveillance camera footage captured during a break-in at the shelter this past weekend.

Police and animal control officers found 17 dogs on a rural property in Bamberg County on Sunday. Not all of the animals belong to the shelter. Some of the dogs were tied to trees with heavy chains and were likely being used for fighting.

Amanda Carlson is the facility manager at Pets, Inc. in West Columbia and has been around animals her entire life. Despite the beliefs people have about pit bulls Carlson says they are a wonderful breed of dog.

"Almost all of them I've seen are hands-down one of the first ones I would recommend to go with a family with children," she said.

Carlson has a pit bull of her own and says she also believed the misconceptions about the breed before doing some research and eventually adopting her own.

The animals are loyal and extremely athletic. That combination makes them attractive to illegal fighters and Carlson has seen the horrors of dogfighting first-hand when animals come through her facility's door.

"Dogs who lose a limb due to being mistreated. You see dogs who are just repeatedly bred," said Carlson. "And they're bullies (pit bulls) so they're going to potentially be used for something that you would not want any creature to have to experience."

Columbia Police are still trying to locate all the pit bulls stolen from the Columbia Animal Shelter over the last three weekends. The recovered animals are said to have some minor injuries but are in good health. It is believed they were being used for fighting purposes which can be part of a wide variety of illegal activities.

"It is my knowledge and my understanding from being in law enforcement, they're involved with narcotics, they're involved with gambling, they're involved with drug rings," said Columbia Police Chief Randy Scott. "They involve these animals, unfortunately, in fighting."

Both Scott and Amanda Carlson say the harsh realities of dogfighting don't have to happen for a breed of dogs who don't become brutal fighters unless they are trained to be that way.

"Come be around one. Come adopt one for a day. Just hang out with one and you can see the love that these animals have," said Carlson. "They just want love and give you nothing but unconditional love."

Columbia police are still looking for another juvenile suspected in the animal shelter thefts. If you have information about the case call CrimeStoppers at 1-888-CRIME-SC. All calls remain anonymous and you could earn a cash reward.