A gruesome find along a Madera county roadside has lead to speculation of animal mutilation, dog killings or attempts to dispose of and destroy evidence of dog fighting.
The most recent discovery of skeletal remains and the charred carcasses of several dogs was made Nov. 4 on Santa Fe Drive just north of Avenue 15 in Madera County. The incident spread quickly on Facebook and was then broadcast on local TV news programs.
The area beside the railroad tracks has long been a dumping ground for debris and dead animals according to nearby residents and animal services authorities.
Yvonne Wilson and her husband frequently drive through the area to visit family and had first noticed what they considered suspicious dumping and the burning of dog carcasses in October of 2015.
“This year was about the same as last year,” Wilson said.
“Some of the dead animals were in similar trash bags, and they had the same brown or tan ropes, all the same rope, a slip knot, around their necks. Some of them had the same brown rope wrapped multiple times around their necks and bodies. There were various sizes, small to large, all in the same trash bag. One had a leash, but the other ones all had the same kind of rope. The pit bull and other carcasses were all badly burned but did not appear to have been tied with any rope. There were also a lot of the same brand of butane cans scattered all over, and some kerosene cans. We found an entire empty cardboard case for the butane cans.”
Dog fighters reportedly use smaller, helpless dogs and other animals as bait to whet the appetites of the spectators of the blood sport and to whip the main fighting dogs into a killing frenzy.
Photos of the charred bodies at the scene showed all types and sizes of burned dogs.
October and November are also reportedly the local cockfighting season, with garbage bags full of dead or dying roosters found discarded along many rural Madera roadsides. The dead roosters are also typically burned or dumped along roadsides in efforts to dispose of any evidence of animal fighting.
Dog fighting often accompanies other illicit animal fighting and gambling activities, according to U.S. Humane Society experts.
“I spoke to some of the area residents and their theory, and my best guess would be a dumping ground for (dead) dogs used in a dog fighting ring,” Wilson said. “I mean, why else would someone go to the expense and effort to burn the bodies of dead dogs? The dogs were so badly charred it was hard to tell (anything). Or perhaps this is a really sick individual that enjoys (killing). Who knows how long this has been going on? Either way it should be investigated. Fresno has also had some recent, similar situations with dog carcasses found burned and even some (dogs) being burned alive.”
Wilson said they reported the October 2015 burned carcass sightings to Madera County animal control officers and were told that the area was just a longtime disposal site and no investigation was possible.
“It’s unbelievable to me that somebody could take an animal’s life like this,” said Wilson. “I am shocked. It’s unfortunate that nothing has been done, up until this point. If you can hurt an animal like this, what is stopping you from moving on to humans or worse crimes? The lack of compassion is unreal. These could be somebody’s pets. I really hope someone comes forward with information on this situation.”
Madera County Animal Services director Kirsten Gross said no evidence of a crime had been found at the scene by animal control officers or the Madera County Sheriff’s Department.
“This area is a long time dumping ground for dead animals, and we didn’t find any evidence of a crime,” Gross said.
Longtime residents Kay and Velvet Rhoads, mother and daughter, live nearby. The two women are also treasurer and president of volunteer group The Friends of the Madera Animal Shelter and have spent a lifetime helping animals. The two happened upon the scene just as TV news crews were investigating the grisly new burned carcass discovery.
“This says a lot about our community,” a shocked Velvet Rhoads said, “when this is what is going on. Oh my gosh. This is very disturbing. Animals are so helpless ... so friendly. No matter how badly you treat them they come back to you, wagging their tails, with a lick,” Rhoads said.
A $2,500 reward for information leading to an arrest and a conviction being offered by the Friends of the Madera Animal Shelter group. Anyone with information on this incident or on dog fighting can call the Madera County Sheriff’s Department, 675-7770, and ask for the Ag Crimes Division.