Natchitoches man arrested in alleged dog fighting ring

Animal shelter officials were searching Thursday for out-of-state shelters to take in some of the 47 pit bulls rescued after a raid on a rural residence where illegal dog fights reportedly were staged in the backyard.

St. Martin Parish sheriff’s deputies arrested Jason Haskett Jr., 25, of Natchitoches, on Wednesday on counts of cruelty to animals, dog fighting, illegal drug possession and distribution, possession of a firearm with an obliterated serial number and having a firearm while possessing illegal drugs.

Authorities also were seeking Antonio Boyd, 35, who was described as a suspected player in the dog-fighting operation. The number of dogs rescued was believed to be one of the largest ever in Louisiana in a raid on a dog fighting ring.

In November 2010, Boyd was arrested on multiple counts of aggravated and simple cruelty to animals and on two counts of dog fighting at the same home, Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Ginny Higgins said.

Higgins said Thursday night that sheriff’s detectives were trying to determine if Boyd was ever charged in the 2010 case and brought to trial.

On Wednesday morning, acting on a tip, deputies descended on the home and arrested Haskett. Deputies and personnel with the St. Martin Parish Animal Services facility rescued the dogs, then transported them to the animal facility in St. Martinville.

By noon Thursday, 27 of the most aggressive dogs had been sent out of state, animal facility chief Michelle Brignac said.

Included in the 20 dogs that remained in the St. Martinville facility’s kennels on Thursday was a weeks-old pit bull puppy that shelter personnel named Cross.

Brignac said she was trying to find out-of-state animal shelters for the remaining dogs. She said none of the 47 dogs, many of them malnourished and scarred, would be euthanized.

Haskett on Thursday remained in the St. Martin Parish Correctional Center in lieu of $65,000 bail, Higgins said.

Louisiana law sets the sentence for conviction on just one count of animal cruelty at one to 10 years in prison and a fine of $5,000 to $25,000, Higgins said.

Martha Bonhomme and Lionel Nicholas live across the street from the home where the dog fights were allegedly staged, just a few miles from Breaux Bridge High School.

She said there used to be a lot of cars at the address, seven or eight, but only on Fridays and Saturdays.

“We used to hear a lot of noise over there but we never knew they were fighting dogs,” Bonhomme said Thursday.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Boyd is asked to call the Sheriff’s Office at (337) 394-3071.