In August 2017, police in Polk County, Georgia received a tip that dogs were being abused and neglected in the woods. Upon investigating this tip, police found that the rumor was true, and it was worse than they could have imagined: They discovered around 100 dogs who had been abused and abandoned, many of whom were literally starving to death. Police connected a man named Devechio Rowland with the unimaginable mistreatment of these poor creatures and promptly arrested him.
Now, almost a year later, Rowland has been convicted on 214 counts, half of which are for dog fighting and the rest of which are misdemeanors for animal cruelty. Subsequently, Rowland was sentenced to 15 years in prison and 35 years on probation for his crimes. While this may seem like a fair punishment, it’s important to note that when he was sentenced, several of the original charges were not taken into account and several were sentenced to be served at the same time.
Reportedly, around 30 animal advocates were waiting outside of the courtroom during the sentencing. When they heard the news that the court had thrown out many of the charges during sentencing, they were shocked and upset. One man, who is currently rehabilitating one of the dogs who suffered horrific abuse on Rowland’s property, reportedly called it a “slap on the wrist” and an “insult” to his recovering dog.
Furthermore, many animal activists and community members were understandably disappointed that none of the animal cruelty charges against Rowland were increased to felonies. According to Polk County Police Chief Kenny Dodd, “We wanted felony, but according to the statute, it has to be aggravated, which means he has to break their bones or damage them, so it doesn’t meet the threshold of a felony.”
Following legal precedent from another Georgia animal cruelty case, the district attorney originally wanted Rowland to be given a 50-year sentence with 20 to serve in jail. Shockingly, Rowland responded by saying that a dog’s life is not equal to a human life and that such a sentence was inappropriate for his crimes. He even went so far as to suggest that he should only have to serve a year in jail with credit for the five months he had already served.
In response to this, a volunteer who is helping the abused dogs reportedly said, “You know, dogs are not property, dogs are family. For anyone that thinks otherwise, you shouldn’t own an animal.”
We absolutely agree with this. If you do, too, please share this story with your network to help raise awareness about the horrors of animal cruelty and consider donating to Pit Sisters, the organization which rescued many of the innocent dogs who were abused by Rowland.