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Humane Society gets custody of dogs taken from Johnson County home

ALVARADO -- John Charles Phillips Jr. insisted that he spent thousands of dollars caring for his dogs -- 15 that he claimed as his own and more than 20 others that he said other people dumped in his yard in rural Johnson County.

Phillips said the 37 dogs were sheltered in shaded in 55-gallon plastic drums, fed and watered at least every couple of days -- until financial problems led to his eviction last week from his mobile home between Venus and Mansfield.

"I'm extremely embarassed and sorry for putting my animals in this situation," Phillips told a Johnson County judge during a hearing Thursday. "If I could do it all over again, I would have done it differently."

Authorities and animal control officials argued that the evidence -- including 500 photos of the dogs and their surroundings -- showed the opposite.

After a 2 1/2-hour hearing, Justice of the Peace Pat Jacobs awarded the 37 living dogs -- mostly pitbull mixes -- to the Humane Society of North Texas, which has been caring for the animals since they were seized from Phillips' property on June 24. Four dead dogs also were removed from the property.

Jacobs also ordered Phillips to pay the Humane Society $4,563 for the care of the 37 dogs since they were seized.

Immediately after Phillips was handed a copy of the civil judgement, he was arrested by Johnson County sheriff's deputies -- some who testified during the hearing. He was charged with cruelty to a nonlivestock animal, a Class A misdemeanor that carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail.

Sheriff's Detective Steve Shaw, the lead investigator on the case, said it would be difficult to prove a dog fighting charge against Phillips despite scars that indicated that the dogs may have been used in fights.