October 21, 2014
50 Dogs Rescued from Suspected Sevier County Dogfighting Operation
The Humane Society of the United States Assisted Sevier County Sheriff’s Department in Investigation; Seizure
A four month-long investigation led to the rescue of 50 dogs from a suspected dogfighting operation in Sevier County, Tennessee, and the arrest of three people. The Sevier County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant at a residence located at 1290 N. Creekside Ln. in Sevierville, with assistance from The Humane Society of the United States, Sevier County Sheriff’s Animal Control and Blount County SPCA. The dogs rescued range in age from 4 weeks to mid-teens and some have scars consistent with dogfighting. The authorities also found suspected dogfighting paraphernalia, money and drugs.
The suspect, Mark Heatherly, 47, of 1290 N. Creekside Lane in Sevierville, has been charged with two counts of dogfighting. Additional charges are possible. His wife, Kimberly L. Heatherly, 45, and son, Jacob R. Heatherly, 23, both of the same address, were charged with conspiracy to commit dogfighting. All three have also been charged with possession of schedule VI narcotics (marijuana) and possession of schedule III narcotics (hydrocodone).
"These 50 dogs are the lucky ones who no longer face life at the end of a heavy chain or worse—a bloody pit,” said Chris Schindler, manager of animal fighting investigations for The HSUS. “We are thankful to the Sevier County authorities for their efforts in this investigation and in forcing dogfighting out of their community. We will continue working with law enforcement around the country to stamp out this blood sport for good.”
“Dogfighting is a despicable crime that will not be tolerated in Sevier County,” said Sheriff Ron Seals. “We are grateful for the assistance and expertise of The Humane Society of the United States on this case, and glad to see these dogs off to better lives.”
The HSUS brought its mobile crime lab and assisted law enforcement in identifying and documenting evidence, as well as coordinating the rescue effort. Blount County SPCA also assisted in handling and documenting the dogs. PetSmart Charities provided necessary supplies and enrichment items for the dogs. The Sevier County Humane Society also assisted.
The HSUS removed the dogs from the property pending final disposition of this case. The dogs will be held at a temporary shelter where they will receive needed veterinary care and enrichment. It is The HSUS’ policy that dogs seized from animal fighting operations be treated as individuals and evaluated for potential placement with HSUS Dogfighting Rescue Coalition placement partners.
- Dogfighting is a felony in all 50 states.
- Under Tennessee law, it is a felony offense to fight animals, to buy, sell or trade them for fighting and a misdemeanor to be a spectator at an animal fight.
- The HSUS offers rewards of up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest and conviction of any person involved in illegal animal fighting. The HSUS asks anyone with information about animal fighting criminals to call 877-TIP-HSUS (877-847-4787). Tipsters' identities are protected.
- The HSUS has been working for a decade to pass stronger animal fighting laws in Tennessee, including cracking down on the spectators who fund these enterprises.
- Rescue groups interested in becoming members of the HSUS’ Dogfighting Rescue Coalition should visit humanesociety.org/drc.