Brothers charged in dogfighting case

Published 11:44 pm Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Two Atmore brothers — one already convicted in January of dog fighting — were arrested on similar charges last week.

Their arrests came at the same time the Humane Society of Escambia County announced it would have to cancel its local contracts for animal control and close its shelters because of lack of funds — raising questions about who can help the county investigate such animal abuse issues in the future.

Twins Terrell Lenard McNeil and Terrence Denard McNeil, 29, both of Atmore, were arrested late last week and face a variety of charges, including dog fighting.

The arrests came after deputies stopped the two on a traffic violation, but Humane Society Director Renee Jones assisted in the investigation, Escambia County Chief Deputy Mike Lambert said.

The arrest marks Terrence McNeil’s third time to face charges of dog fighting and the second time Terrell McNeil has been arrested for similar offenses.

“Our officers performed a traffic stop and noticed a red-nosed pit bulldog in the vehicle that had several cuts, marks and scars on his face,” Lambert said. “A search of the vehicle also turned up syringes filled with an unknown substance as well as other paraphernalia that is consistent with dog fighting and the treatment of dogs.”

Jones was contacted after the paraphernalia was discovered, Lambert said.

“The dog was seized as evidence in the case and the investigation resulted in evidence that lead the district attorney to issue warrants in the case,” Lambert said. “The two were taken into custody and returned to the Escambia County Detention Center.”

The McNeil twins were also arrested in Autauga County in a previous case, Jones said.

“(The McNeils) are repeat offenders,” Jones said. “They were caught here and indicted on dog fighting charges. They were then arrested after a raid in Autauga County; 37 dogs were seized and they faced dog-fighting charges there.

“Now, they have been arrested here.”

Terrence McNeil was arrested in June 2008 when law enforcement officers received a tip of a planned dogfight off North Sunset Drive in Atmore.

While out on bond from the June arrest, McNeil was arrested a second time in September 2008 as the result of an undercover investigation in Autauga County near Prattville.

Terrell McNeil was arrested along with his brother in the September 2008 incident near Prattville.

Both were charged with felony dog fighting, which carries a potential sentence of up to 10 years and fines of up to $15,000 for each count.

“The Autauga arrest brought 27 felony counts onto record for the twins.

With the recent announcement of closing HSEC shelters and terminating municipal contracts, questions concerning the availability of an animal cruelty investigation are rising.

“HSEC has been contracted with municipalities to shelter animals,” Jones said. “That contract also included investigation of animal cruelty complaints and cases.

“With the contracts being terminated, our involvement with investigation of cruelty cases is also being terminated.”

Jones said as part of HSEC she has hopes that involvement with animal protection can continue.

“People who fight dogs are the scourge of the earth,” Jones said. “I hope to always be of help with investigations to stop this activity.

“I have been happy to consult on cases when I’m asked anywhere.”

Lambert said the charges against Terrence McNeil from the June 2008 case have been settled but charges in Autauga County are still pending against the pair.

“Terrence is on probation with Community Corrections and both of the McNeils are out on bond from Autauga County,” Lambert said. “We are checking with officials in Autauga County to have their bond revoked.”

Jones said investigations in cases like those against the McNeils need to continue to keep animals from being tortured.

“We have great dog fighting laws in Alabama,” Jones said. “There is a misconception that unless we see them fighting we can’t charge them.

“That’s not the case, and we need to continue to be involved somehow to keep these cases down.

“With all the work we do to take care of animals, this kind of activity is just like a slap in the face.”