For years, the wails and cries of dogs troubled residents of one Kansas City, North, neighborhood.
The noises came from inside a garage and from behind that home’s privacy fence on an otherwise quiet cul-de-sac. Numerous calls to the city about the home reported suspicions of animal abuse and neglect.
Neighbors said they sometimes glimpsed dogs inside the garage hanging by their necks. Because they were pit bulls, neighbors suspected that the dogs were being used for dogfighting.
Those suspicions turned out to be well founded, according to allegations announced this week by federal prosecutors.
The man who kept dogs at the house in the 8100 block of Northwest 81st Place was one of two men accused in federal court of participating in a large-scale dogfighting operation. Pete Davis Jr., who was arrested last weekend at a Texas dogfight, has been prosecuted several times in Kansas City for violating city animal ordinances.
In one 2011 incident, one of his pit bulls ran loose and attacked two small dogs being walked by a woman and her 7-year-old daughter.
“I can’t tell you how traumatic it was,” said Brandi Oude Alink, whose miniature pincher puppies, Pixie and Peanut, survived. “It was horrible the way my dogs screamed and cried.”
As the pit bull tore first at one and then the other puppy, Oude Alink fought to pull her dogs away. She didn’t have time to consider personal safety.
“I couldn’t just stand there,” she said. “It was going to rip them to pieces right in front of my daughter.”
After neighbors helped subdue the female pit bull, Oude Alink wrapped her bleeding and whimpering pets in towels. A friend drove her to an emergency veterinary facility.
There, after the adrenaline rush of the fight, Oude Alink shook so hard she couldn’t fill out paperwork or dial a phone.
“It was definitely terrifying,” she recalled.
Davis was fined $400 after pleading guilty to a charge related to that attack, according to court records.
After being sued over the incident in small claims court, he also was ordered to pay $800 to cover Oude Alink’s veterinary bills.
Federal prosecutors in Kansas announced on Monday that they had charged Davis, 38, and Melvin L. Robinson, 41, with transporting dogs in interstate commerce for the purpose of animal fighting. The charges carry a maximum penalty of five years in federal prison.
Between them, the men owned approximately 60 pit bulls kept mostly at a northern Missouri farm owned by Davis, according to federal officials and court documents. The confiscated animals are being cared for by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.
Federal officials identified Davis and Robinson as residents of Kansas City, Kan. But records show that Davis maintained the Kansas City, North, residence near Park Hill High School.
Davis’ treatment of animals had been a “sore spot” in the neighborhood since he moved in five or six years ago, said a neighbor who did not want her name used out of fear of retaliation.
City records show that animal control officers were called to the house numerous times to investigate complaints ranging from animals being left for days at a time without food and water to dogs running loose to the attack on Pixie and Peanut.
The most recent call occurred last July when animal control and police officers were sent to investigate a report of a dog in the yard without water.
According to a Kansas City Animal Health and Public Safety report, the officers impounded a male pit bull they found in the fenced-in yard and freed a puppy whose chain was entangled in brush, preventing the puppy from reaching a water bowl.
As the officers were leaving, the owner arrived and questioned whether they could impound the adult dog, the report says. They told him they could, but when they attempted to speak with him further, he would not answer their knocks at the front door.
Another complaint alleged that six pit bulls were being kept at the residence and that dog feces was being thrown into the yards of neighbors. Responding officers reported finding no one home and leaving a notice on the door.
Several other calls resulted in dogs being impounded, according to the reports, including one “aggressive” female that had been running loose.
Besides the incident involving Oude Alink, Kansas City Municipal Court records show three other convictions against Davis for violating animal ordinances. Those cases involved an animal running at large, an unlicensed animal, and no spaying and neutering, according to court records.
Dionne Scherff, who represents Davis in the new federal case, said she hadn’t received any paperwork from prosecutors yet. But she said Davis understands the seriousness of the charges and the defense is preparing to go forward.
Officials with Kansas City Animal Health and Public Safety said dogfighting allegations are difficult to prove short of catching participants in the act. Owners can be cited for cruelty if officers see evidence of physical injury to a dog.
Those who organize animal fighting can be “pretty smart” in concealing their activities from authorities, said Patrick Egberuare, manager of the Animal Health and Public Safety Division. Kansas City police and his division recently held preliminary talks about forming a task force to investigate alleged animal fighting, he said.
The dogfighting Davis and Robinson are accused of participating in occurred on Sundays at the northern Missouri farm, according to documents filed in the federal case.
Northland neighbors said that every Sunday morning “like clockwork,” a number of vehicles would arrive and depart from the residence on 81st Place.
“We used to joke that it must be fight day,” said a neighbor who did not want her name used.
Despite the suspicions, the neighbor said she never saw a treadmill at the Kansas City, North, home like the one federal prosecutors described being used to train fighting dogs at a residence in Kansas City, Kan.
It was Labor Day weekend in 2011 when Oude Alink had her frightening encounter. Peanut and Pixie had been presents for her daughter’s 7th birthday. Mother and daughter were on a walk near their home with the pups when the unattended pit bull came around a corner.
It charged and seized Peanut by her head, “thrashing her around like a rag doll,” Oude Alink said.
Oude Alink fought to pull her dog away from the pit bull.
“We were playing tug of war with my puppy,” she said.
When the pit bull let go, Oude Alink tossed the pup over a picket fence. By then the pit bull had grabbed Pixie and was shaking her back and forth. Again, Oude Alink struggled to pull her dog free. When she did, she threw it over the same fence.
But Pixie ran right back out. And Peanut stuck her head between the fence slats and “locked jaws” with the much larger attacker.
By then, neighbors who heard Oude Alink screaming ran out and helped subdue the pit bull by sitting on it until animal control officers arrived.
Pixie and Peanut needed severe lacerations stapled and stitched. Since then, Oude Alink’s daughter has refused to take the dogs on walks unless her father accompanies her.
Oude Alink said the pit bull was focused on her dogs and never tried to bite a person during the encounter.
“I was lucky. I know that could have happened in a second,” she said.
She never talked to Davis afterward except when they met with a mediator after she sued him.
“He never offered an apology,” she said.