Defendant in dogfighting case will be facing new charges
SEBRING - One of the defendants charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty and animal fighting after authorities made arrests Dec. 6 in connection with an alleged dogfighting operation is set to face new charges, said assistant state attorney Steve Houchin. Houchin said James Thomas Reed will be facing multiple counts alleging breeding puppies for illegal activities, which will be presented to him at a March 19 court hearing. Acting on a complaint Dec. 6, Highlands County Sheriff's Office deputies seized 16 dogs from two High Avenue homes in Sebring that they say were being used for fighting, according to a sheriff's office report. Authorities contend Reed was present at the 4807 High Ave. home with other defendants when deputy Bret Hinkle was doing surveillance from a neighbor's house.During the investigation, authorities reported seeing a 10-foot-wide and 25-foot-long dogfighting ring made of large truck tires in the backyard of the home. Ten days later, 29 dogs were seized from Reed's home, 207 Atterberry Drive, in Sebring. He currently faces 11 counts of animal fighting and 11 counts of felony cruelty to an animal and remains free on a $66,000 bond. In December, Reed's attorney, John W. Kromholz, asked the court to consider giving the 29 dogs back to their owner. In a motion, which is now on hold, Kromholz claimed that Highlands County Animal Control had no basis for seizing Reed's animals, which were recovered in a location different from where the alleged Dec. 6 offense took place. "All animals in Mr. Reed's care are in excellent health and condition," the motion stated. Since then, sheriff's attorney Mike Durham has also filed a motion asking for custody of the 29 pit bulls. If the Highlands County Sheriff's Office is awarded permanent custody, they also will be adopted out like the 16 dogs seized during the first two raids. The next hearing for the civil case is set for March 30. The 29 dogs are currently being housed at the Polk County animal shelter.