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For Immediate Release:
March 31, 2005

Martin Mersereau 757-622-7382  

Tyler, Texas ---This morning, PETA sent an urgent plea to Smith County Criminal District Attorney Matt Bingham, urging him to vigorously prosecute Demarcus Keshawn Johnson of Tyler. Johnson faces multiple charges stemming from authorities’ reported March 10 discovery of as many as nine pit bulls bearing scars consistent with having been fought. Officials also discovered the remains of seven dogs, one with her mouth duct taped shut—apparently so that she could not fight back after being thrown into a pen to train other dogs to fight. Authorities allege that Johnson has been a member of a larger dogfighting ring that has been abducting neighborhood companion animals from their yards and using them as such "bait."

"Anyone capable of this kind of cruelty poses a serious risk, not just to animals, but to fellow human beings," says PETA Cruelty Caseworker Daniel Paden. "Communities should be concerned when animal abusers are found in their midst. Research in psychology and criminology reveals a consistent pattern of cruelty to animals among perpetrators of violence toward humans." Paden also points out that dogfighting is almost invariably associated with drugs, weapons, and illegal gambling.

PETA is also sending its anti-violence public service announcement hosted by actor Dennis Franz to TV stations serving the Tyler area.

For more information about the link between cruelty to animals and violence aimed at humans, please visit

PETA’s letter to Criminal District Attorney Matt Bingham follows.

March 31, 2005

The Honorable Matt Bingham
Criminal District Attorney, Smith County
200 E. Ferguson St., Ste. 300
Tyler, TX 75702

Dear Mr. Bingham:

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is the world’s largest animal rights organization, with more than 800,000 members and supporters dedicated to the protection of animals. This letter is in reference to a recent case that your office is handling, involving Demarcus Keshawn Johnson, 18, of Tyler. Johnson faces multiple misdemeanor charges stemming from authorities’ reported March 10 discovery of the remains of up to seven dogs—as well as up to nine pit bulls bearing scars consistent with having been fought—near his South Lyons Avenue home. According to news sources, Johnson is believed to have taken the dogs from neighbors’ yards and duct-taped their mouths before tossing them into pens with the pit bulls in an apparent attempt to "bait," or train, the latter to fight. Seven of the pit bulls have since apparently been euthanized. Reports indicate that a kitten was also thankfully removed from the accused’s charge.

Mental-health professionals and top law-enforcement officials consider all forms of cruelty to animals to be a red flag. The American Psychiatric Association identifies cruelty to animals as one of the diagnostic criteria for conduct disorders, and the FBI uses reports of animal abuse in analyzing the threat potential of suspected and known criminals. Experts agree that it is the severity of the behavior—not the species of the victim—that matters. Furthermore, dogfighting is invariably linked to illegal gambling and the presence of illicit drugs and weapons. Raids on animal-fighting operations frequently bring with them the discovery of major drug networks and the seizure of large caches of firearms. Violent crimes are also commonly associated with blood sports. In response to these trends, a number of jurisdictions have formed interagency task forces to ensure their communities’ safety. Needless to say, we are relieved to know that your local authorities treat such crimes with the seriousness that they deserve.

On behalf of our thousands of members and supporters in Texas, we respectfully urge your office to prosecute Demarcus Johnson to the fullest extent of the law. Because repeat crimes are the rule rather than the exception among animal abusers—and this is especially true of dogfighters—we ask that, upon conviction and in addition to being sentenced to a period of incarceration, he be barred from any future contact with animals and that any animals who may remain in his charge be immediately seized. We also ask that Johnson be required to undergo a thorough psychological evaluation followed by mandatory counseling at personal expense—the safety of the community may depend on it.

Thank you for your diligence and for your time and consideration. I can be reached at 757-622-7382 if you have any questions or if our office can be of assistance.

Sincerely yours,

Daniel Paden, Cruelty Caseworker
Domestic Animal and Wildlife Rescue & Information Department

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