BARTOW – When the reports first broke that the Polk County Sheriff’s Office had broken up a dog fighting ring, the law enforcement agency got plenty of requests from the media for photos and videos of the dogs that had been subjected to the cruel treatment in this operation.
Donna C. Wood, public information officer for the sheriff’s office, noted that these requests ultimately had to be turned down. Why? Because the dogs taken into custody had literally been trained to be vicious — and to attack.
“For those of you who had requested to get video of the dogs seized last night, please note,” Wood said in an email to the media. “After consultation with the veterinarian, due to the animals’ aggressive nature, we will not be allowing media access. I apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.”
Instead, the sheriff’s office sent out photos to the media of the animals rescued from the Bartow building.
In a heartbreaking story, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested 47-year-old Hewitt Grant, II and 44-year-old Nickie Nicole Sanders, both of 880 LB Brown Ave. S. in Bartow, and charged them with multiple counts of animal cruelty in connection to what the sheriff’s office says is their operation of an illegal dog fighting ring.
As Wood noted, this was not Grant’s first brush with the law — or the first time he had been charged with operating a dog fighting ring.
“Hewitt Alfonzo Grant, II has been arrested in Polk County nine times previously,” Wood noted. “He has one felony conviction. This arrest occurred in 2001; Grant was found guilty of failure to disclose/manufacture actual name” as part of a counterfeit arrest.
He also has a civil injunction dating back to 2006 that prohibits Grant from owning dogs, Wood noted.
The couple, now in the Polk County Jail, ran the bloody dog fighting ring out of a former bar, the sheriff’s office noted. The investigation started after the sheriff’s office received a tip from the Crime Stoppers hotline about the couple’s activities.
On Wednesday, detectives followed up by executing a search warrant at 122 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. in Bartow, which is a former bar, as well as at Grant’s home at 880 S. L.B. Brown Ave.
What they found was 69 dogs, many with bloody wounds from recent fights. There was also blood on the walls and rugs, deputies reported.
Some of the dogs were chained up, which the police report noted was a practice that’s frequently used to strengthen an animals’ neck for the fights.
In 2006, Grant had been arrested after deputies found 139 dogs – including 123 pitbulls – at his home near Mulberry, and a year later he got convicted and was found guilty of 80 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.
He was sentenced to 364 days in county jail, and that was when Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd filed the civil injunction banning Grant from ever owning dogs.
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