Walter "Randy" Citizen, III & Arnett William Counts dogfighting - 17 dogs, 4 pups rescued

South Los Angeles, CA

Los Angeles County

April 17, 2007

The Los Angeles Police Department on announced that a 41-year-old South Los Angeles man has been arrested and charged with possessing 17 fighting dogs and dog-fighting paraphernalia.

Walter Citizen, 41, was arrested in April and is in Men's Central Jail awaiting a court date. He has been charged with 10 felony counts related to dogfighting.

Meanwhile, police said they are searching for an accomplice, Arnett Counts, 40.

"These guys were in possession of 17 dogs who had multiple old scars, particularly on their face, chest, forelimbs and their ears - and some of them also had new wounds," said LAPD Det. Susan Brumagin. "One still had medical staples in it - you just don't get all this scarring by accidentally getting off a chain and fighting another dog."

Citizen pleaded not guilty last month. His attorney could not be reached for comment.

The dogs - in addition to four puppies also found at the home - are being kept in city shelters, where they have been treated for their wounds and will be held as evidence for the time being. Deborah Knaan, assistant general manager for operations of the city's animal services agency, said the dogs could be adopted if they are found to not be aggressive to people or animals.

Brumagin said that police suspected dogs were being trained for fighting at a home on 85th Street after it was the subject of an unrelated narcotics investigation in 2004.

Officials didn't immediately follow up on their suspicions, however, due to a lack of communication between the LAPD and the city's animal services agency, Brumagin said. But a subsequent complaint spurred police to investigate activity at the house in early March.

The arrest was one of the most high profile so far for the city's fledgling animal cruelty taskforce, created in 2005.

Anyone with information about the whereabouts of suspected accomplice Counts is asked to call the animal cruelty task force at (213) 847-1417.

Update 5/10/08:  Following an Animal Cruelty TaskForce Press Conference at Animal Services' South LA Animal Care Center on May 2, 2007, Arnett Counts, 40, surrendered quietly in Department 36 at the Criminal Courts Building in downtown Los Angeles on May 8, 2007.

Counts is charged with ten counts of owning and training dogs to fight. Seventeen adult dogs with numerous old and new fighting scars were removed from a residence where Counts maintained the dogs. Four puppies were also removed.

If convicted, Counts could be sentenced to up to three years in state prison.

Update 2/8/08:  A man was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading guilty to five counts of animal cruelty in connection with a dogfighting ring.

Walter Citizen, 42, entered his plea and then was sentenced by Superior Court Judge William N. Sterling. Five other counts were dismissed.

Some of the dogs confiscated were euthanized, while others were put up for adoption.

Arnett Counts, 41, also was charged in connection with the case. He is free on bail and is scheduled to stand trial in March.

Update 11/5/08:  The district attorney's office says jurors deliberated about three hours before finding Arnett Counts guilty of 10 felony counts of dogfighting. He faces a maximum of nine years in prison.

Update 12/2/08:  Walter Citizen III, 43, and Arnett Counts, 42, were arrested last year after investigators got a tip that dogs were being mistreated at Citizen's property in South Los Angeles.

Police say the dogfighting outfit was a major player in the illegal training and breeding of animals for fighting.

"Most of the dogs were injured, underweight, many had open sores and most had an extreme case of flea dermatitis," Police Chief William Bratton said at a news conference.

Citizen and Counts, friends since high school, were charged with 10 felony counts of dogfighting.

Counts was convicted on all 10 counts and sentenced to five years in prison.   Citizen pleaded guilty to five felony animal cruelty counts and was sentenced in February to three years in prison.

The dogfighting ring was run out of the home of the Citizen's deceased grandparents, Deputy District Attorney Kimberly Abourezk said. Investigators found a canine treadmill, medical equipment and a log detailing the training of at least one dog, she said.

Some animals had recent wounds that were stapled shut, and all but three or four dogs were in such bad shape or so aggressive they were euthanized, officials said. The remainder may be adopted.

On a cast iron fence outside Citizens' house, a sign read: "Never mind the dog, beware of owner."

Citizen's defense attorney Stephen R. Kahn said his client grew up in Louisiana where dogfighting was part of the culture. He said his client is an animal lover who is remorseful about his involvement in the dogfighting ring. Citizen's dogs were well cared for, Kahn said.

"What's happened in the past is in the past and now we go forward," Kahn said. "In today's world there is not a place for this kind of activity and he recognizes that."

Lt. John Pasquariello, who heads the police department's animal cruelty task force, said prosecutors usually go after dogfighting rings by charging participants with gambling offenses. The case against Counts marked the first time the city has taken dogfighting charges to trial, Abourezk said.

Pasquariello said dogfighting remains "fairly rampant" in the city, particularly in South Los Angeles. Cockfighting, another of his office's concerns, is predominantly found in immigrant communities, but dogfighting has a broader reach.

"It's not white, black or Hispanic," he said. "It's widespread across all cultures."

Pasquariello said dogfighting awareness has increased, particularly since former football star Michael Vick was sentenced to 23 months after pleading guilty last year to bankrolling a dogfighting operation.

Police are offering a $5,000 reward for tips leading to dogfighting convictions.

Reference:

The Examiner The Associated Press
Ventura County Star The Los Angeles Times
LA Animal Services Mercury News
Fox News The LA County Sheriff's Department