St. Petersburg Times
Special report
Video report
  • For their own good
    Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
  • More video reports
Multimedia report
Print Email this storyEmail story Comment Email editor
Fill out this form to email this article to a friend
Your name Your email
Friend's name Friend's email
Your message
 

Features

For the dog owner, loss, bewilderment and a terrible quiet

By KELLEY BENHAM
Published July 30, 2006


[Times photo: Cherie Diez]
Hewitt Grant, left, listens as Polk County Animal Control veterinarian Joseph Ertel testifies about the condition of Grant’s dogs during a civil hearing.
Related stories:
Kennel trash
That nickname didn't bother the people at Polk County Animal Control. It bound them together, signaled their kinship with the dogs they cared for. When a police raid filled every cage with pit bulls, they confronted the true cost of compassion.
How you can help
If you want to help homeless and abused animals, here is a list of some of the public and private animal shelters in the Tampa Bay area.
The pit bull problem
Pit bulls have a horrific reputation for attacking people and pets. They are banned in several places, including Miami-Dade County and Denver. Some animal shelters refuse to adopt them out.
About this story and photo gallery
You can contribute to an online discussion of this story at www.itsyourtimes.com.

My dogs are gone. I loved my dogs. What was the purpose of killing a hundred-something dogs?

Everybody knows me. I'm a good person. My mother got cancer in 2004. I bathe her. Feed her. I take care of my grandmother. I've got three kids.

Do I think dogfighting is wrong? Yeah. I don't care for that, and I hate to see a person abuse a dog. They got me bigger than any real dogfighter there is and they ain't caught me fighting none.

I can understand people can think I'm fighting dogs. I'd keep 'em till hog hunting season, sell them in October.

I do have a problem with keeping dogs. When my mama got sick, that's when I got a little twisted. If I had a litter of seven, I'd sell two. By summer I would've had 200. I already know I was in too deep.

I was getting up some money to get a kennel license. I've got big dreams. I was trying to make a new breed. I was trying to make a small, mini pit bull. Take away the meanness and keep the look.

I'd go to dog shows and start entering weight competitions and confirmation shows. I have trophies.

I like pit bulls. They're aggressive. I'm aggressive, with my deejaying and stuff. I want to say it's a macho thing. It's definitely a black thing.

A man thinks he's tough. A man wants a tough dog with him. Everyone ain't supposed to have no pit bull. It ain't Scooby.

* * *

Hewitt Grant is fighting the charges against him. He doesn't understand why police came onto his property that day. They had no warrant. The two dogs outside his fence were healthy, he said. Some photos and testimony seem to support that.

He has asked a judge to throw out evidence stemming from that warrantless entry.

Grant doesn't understand why he is being charged with cruelty for every adult dog he owned. Not all his dogs were sick, according to the vet who evaluated them.

Grant doesn't dispute that he had sick dogs or that a few needed to be euthanized. He says they were suffering because of accidents or illness, not abuse. He was trying to get them well.

The emaciated dogs were not deliberately starved, he said. They had chewed their kennels until the wood made them so sick they could not digest their food.

The dog with the leg wound was injured in an accidental dogfight with Voodoo, the dog Karen called Grandpa. The leg was healing slowly because the dog was such a digger, he said.

Grant had outdoor heaters for the dogs. He had begun installing automatic feeders. He had just built some new kennels, of which he was proud.

* * *

They say what they need to say to make you say, "Ooh, that guy's a butthole. He's a bad dog guy."

I bought dog food every other day. I buy River Run or High Tech at Tractor Supply. They knew me there. I buy chicken or beef or ham at the barbecue place. Or from the other guy I buy deer meat. Once a week on Friday I feed scraps.

I ain't no vet or nothing. But I've got a million miles of water hose. Those water buckets ain't for nothing. They've got me looking like some kind of mad person.

I ain't never had no flea problem, ain't never had no smell.

I've got 140 dogs, man. Every one's not going to be healthy every day.

* * *

He can't explain why the police found five dead dogs in the high grass the day after the raid. They weren't his, he said, insisting he always buried his dogs when they died.

The flier in his kitchen promising "no police raid"? Maybe his kids made it, he said. The cat mill was on the property before he moved there, he said. He said he didn't use it

He named all his dogs, knew their parents and their littermates, their ages and their quirks and their stories.

Gabby, Slim, Rudolph, Psycho, Ho Hater, Hank, Bully, Pharoah, King Arthur, Chopper, Lookalike.

Hewitt knew the chihuahua as Sue Lee. She was his girlfriend Siera's dog. Sue Lee lived in the house, Siera said.

When Siera cooked chicken wings with honey, she gave Sue Lee her own plate. Hewitt didn't like it, but Siera didn't care.

* * *

What really got me - why would you just kill a dog? You ain't really got me on nothing yet.

I called the Polk County Humane Society and told her I needed help because the Sheriff's Department was killing my dogs. She said, "I don't want to help you."

When I go out to the house in Mulberry, I enter the house from the back so I don't have to see the kennels. I go out on the hill and stand up and just look.

All my dogs dead. All my dogs gone. I lost all my dogs.

One day I'll probably sit down and cry.

It kills me, remembering the dogs. I miss 'em.

- KELLEY BENHAM

Hewitt Grant's comments have been edited together from interviews at attorney Julia Williamson's office, at his former home and on the phone.

[Last modified July 27, 2006, 13:40:07]


Share your thoughts on this story

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Subscribe to the Times
Click here for daily delivery
of the St. Petersburg Times.

Email Newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT