MERRILLVILLE — When police investigated a Merrillville home, they found several dogs living in feces and urine-soaked cages as well as alleged dog fighting paraphernalia, court records said.
Demario T. Young, Sr., 40, of Merrillville, was charged with promoting an animal fighting contest and he faces seven animal cruelty charges of neglect of an animal, according to Lake Superior Court records.
At 9 a.m. Jan. 30 a Lake County’s Sheriff’s detective, who is certified as professional animal cruelty investigator and has investigated such cases in the county for the last 19 years, was alerted of a possible animal cruelty case.
A Lake County Drug Task Force commander contacted the detective after what he saw while executing a search warrant with drug task force members at a residence in the 900 block of W. 67th Place in Merrillville.
The commander said when he entered the home he saw seven American pit bull terriers being kept in squalid conditions, court reports said.
Four dogs were kept in a garage, another was in the back yard and a dog and her puppy was caged inside a crate in the laundry room.
The detective arrived on scene and investigated the conditions the dogs were kept in. She noted the female dog and puppy had no access to food or water as they sat in feces and urine-soaked newspapers in a cage that appeared to have not been cleaned for quite some time, police reported.
The dog in the fenced backyard also did not appear to have access to food and water and only had shelter from a bare wooden box with no bedding to provide warmth. The detective said that day's temperatures were between 25 and 34 degrees. The garage door appeared to have muddy paw prints and paint peeling off from the dog trying to get inside the garage, the detective said.
When the detective walked in the garage, she said the smell of feces and urine was overpowering, court reports stated. She saw three dogs in wire cages and one dog roaming the garage freely.
The cages the dogs were in were too small for the dogs to be able to lay down and the buckets of water inside the cages were contaminated with feces, the detective reported. In addition, the newspapers in the cages were soaked with urine and feces.
The detective said a black dog in one of the cages had scarring on its muzzle, head and front legs that were consistent with wounds from an animal fighting contest.
While searching the garage, the detective found a full bag of intravenous sodium chloride injection, which she said is commonly used in dog fighting rings and is considered to be animal fighting paraphernalia. Those using the animals for fighting typically use the fluid to rehydrate dogs after a fight, especially if the dog suffered blood loss, court reports said.
The intravenous fluid is only legally available through a prescription from a veterinarian though the detective said those using dogs for fighting obtain the fluids without prescriptions. In addition, veterinary drugs such as Ivermectin and Penicillin and antibiotic ointment and iodine were also in plain view in the garage. The detective alleged that criminals typically use the drugs and ointments to treat the dogs after fighting so they do not get infections from wounds.
In addition, several pieces of animal hide in the garage also resonated with typical animal fighting contest items as owners use the hides on poles and springs to exercise fighting dogs and build up endurance, the detective said.
When police met with Young, authorities asked if he wished to relinquish ownership of the dogs, to which he responded he did not. He further said the dogs were not involved in anything illegal. The detective asked why one of the dogs had scarring consistent with dog fighting, to which he denied abusing the animal.
“I got the dog that way. I’ve had her since she was a puppy,” Young said, according to court records. “I think she got that trying to get under a fence or something. I recovered that dog. I take care of the dogs and feed them good.”
Young further said he was in charge of taking care of all the dogs at the property.
The dogs were seized and taken to a local animal hospital and a veterinarian examined the numerous scars on one of the dogs, court records said. The other dogs had no notable medical problems.
In addition, the director of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office Animal Care and Control Center told the detective one of the dogs pulled away from a handler and injured another dog through a chain link kennel door. The detective said she recognized the behavior from dogs bred for fighting, also known as game dogs, because owners breed them and train them to be aggressive toward other animals.
At the conclusion of her investigations, the detective alleged that Young intentionally possessed dog fighting paraphernalia and knowingly neglected seven dogs.