Charges amended in animal cruelty case

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Miller County prosecutors have amended the charges facing a man accused of cutting the ears off a pitbull used for fighting to include a greater punishment range.

Christopher Tremayne Harper, 27, is facing charges of unlawful dogfighting and aggravated cruelty to a dog. Both charges are usually punishable by up to six years in prison. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell filed documents Wednesday adding a habitual offender allegation which enhances the maximum punishment to 12 years. Harper pleaded guilty in 2013 in Lafayette County, Ark., to delivery of a controlled substance.

Harper’s animal cruelty and dogfighting cases are set for jury selection Feb. 26 before Circuit Judge Carlton Jones.

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According to a probable cause affidavit, authorities received a report the afternoon of Jan. 13, 2017, of men fighting pit bull dogs on property near 11th Street in Texarkana, Ark. When officers arrived, they spoke to two men, later identified as Harper and Jaquavian Johnson, 19, who were in possession of a red and brindle pit bull with ears, “cut back almost to his head.” According to animal rights sources, cutting a dog’s ears back is done to prevent other dogs from latching on to them during a fight.

The dog’s owner, who allegedly gave a false name but was later identified as Harper, claimed he bought the dog with cut ears and promised to take the ailing animal to a veterinarian. The men denied they had been fighting dogs. Later the same day, authorities received another report of dog fighting in the same area. Officers made contact a second time with Johnson and noted that his white pit bull had puncture wounds and other injuries consistent with dog fighting. Harper allegedly did not seek treatment for his dog’s cut ears.

The dogs were seized and the men arrested last year. Johnson pleaded guilty to unlawful dogfighting in October and received a five-year term of probation. He must pay a $1,000 fine and $5,240 in restitution to the Animal Care and Adoption Center for boarding and veterinary costs. Johnson agreed to forfeit his animals and may not own animal while on probation.

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