A nationally known pit-bull breeder based in Wilkes County pleaded guilty yesterday to 14 counts of felony dog fighting and was sentenced to 8 to 10 months in prison, according to the Wilkes County Clerk of Court office.
The breeder, Ed Faron, 61, also must serve a lengthy period of supervised probation when he gets out of prison, and may not own, possess or care for any dogs, as part of the plea agreement. Exact terms of the probation were unclear yesterday.
Faron is to report to prison on March 5. His adopted son, Donni Juan Casanova, who was also arrested in the raid, pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of felony dog fighting, according to the clerk's office. Casanova was sentenced to a six- to eight-month prison sentence that was suspended, and he was ordered to serve 24 months of supervised probation, including six months of intensive probation.
Wilkes County has possession of the 127 pit bulls that were seized in a raid on Faron's Wildside Kennels property in a mountainous area off Mertie Road on Dec. 10. The county was awarded custody of the dogs by a judge last month after Faron failed to pay nearly $53,000 the county had asked for their care. A large number of puppies have since been born, and the dogs are being held at undisclosed locations.
The court file yesterday did not include notice about the disposition of the dogs, according to the clerk's office.
John Goodwin, the manager of animal-fighting issues for The Humane Society of the United States, said yesterday that a judge will decide the fate of the dogs later. The Humane Society worked for three years on the investigation, in cooperation with Wilkes County Animal Control and the Wilkes County Sheriff's Office.
Goodwin said that Faron was one of the nation's largest breeders of fighting dogs and wrote a book many consider to be the bible of the underworld of fighting dogs.
"I think this is showing dog fighters that even their godfathers are being prosecuted and sent to prison," he said.
Goodwin said that the dogs have been bred for fighting and it would very difficult and expensive to re-train the dogs, even the puppies, so that they could be adopted.
County officials have said that the dogs would be euthanized. Officials did not return a phone message yesterday.
"I think there's a county ordinance that requires it," Goodwin said. "It's not a matter of would, could or should. It's the law."
Other animal advocates believe that the dogs should be adopted to homes. Best Friends Animal Society, which runs one of the nation's biggest animal sanctuaries, has offered to have the dogs spayed or neutered and to assist the county with placing them.
"To make the judgment that all these dogs are dangerous, solely on basis of their breed, is simply wrong," Ed Fritz, a spokesman for Best Friends, said in an e-mail.
Best Friends has been working to rehabilitate 22 of the pit bulls seized in the Michael Vick dog-fighting case, a continuing work that has been featured on the National Geographic Television series DogTown, which is set at Best Friends' 3,700-acre animal sanctuary in Utah.
Sheila Carlisle of Morganton said she has been helping to care for the grown pit bulls and many puppies, and that the dogs are adorable.
"I've fallen in love with them," she said. "I don't want to cause anybody any problems with the court system, but I want these dogs saved."
■ Monte Mitchell can be reached in Wilkesboro at 336-667-5691 or at email@example.com.