Suspect charged after ‘absolutely horrific’ animal abuse found at Gastonia home

GASTONIA, N.C. — A suspect has been charged after officers seized dozens of dogs from a home in a Gaston County neighborhood last month.

Animal care enforcement officers began investigating on the morning of April 28 after receiving a tip that dogs were being trained to fight at a home on Hemlock Avenue in Gastonia.

[Chained, scarred dogs rescued from alleged dogfighting ring in Gastonia]

They brought about 30 dogs to shelters for evaluation and treatment. An investigator said it was one of the worst cases of animal cruelty he had seen.

This week, Terrance Marvin Cooper, 39, who lived at the home, was charged with 30 counts of animal cruelty and 30 counts of dogfighting, police said. All charges are felony offenses.

According to police, utility workers discovered the conditions the animals were in and called the police.

“They observed a dog fight in the backyard of 1911 Hemlock Avenue, so our specialists arrived to investigate,” Capt. Matt Hensley with the Gaston County Police Department told Channel 9 last month. “They could see a dead dog from the backyard at that time.”

Investigators found the dogs suffering “obvious injuries,” some wounds that were described as consistent with dogfighting. Authorities also seized four goats and seven rabbits from the home.

After the animals are healed, they could possibly be adopted.


“That’s my hope that they find a home where they can live happy the rest of their life,” Hensley said.

Chopper 9 Skyzoom flew over the home where investigators were removing the animals from the backyard and executing a search warrant for the rest of the home.

“The images and the photos that were provided were absolutely horrific,” Janette Reever, the senior specialist of Global Anti-dogfighting at the Humane Society International, told Channel 9 last month.

Reever is assisting with the investigation.

She called dogfighting a cluster crime, which means that in most cases, there are also guns, drugs and the abuse of humans.

“You are talking about an industry that takes down a community,” Reever said.

She said they can’t say for certain why the goats and rabbits were on the property, but she said in dogfighting, other animals are often used as bait and rewards.

Cooper is being held at the Gaston County Jail on a $325,000 secured bond.

Gaston police are asking anyone with additional information on this investigation or other dogfighting in Gaston County to call Detective Brienza at 704-866-3320, Gaston County Animal Care and Enforcement at 704-866-3300 or CrimeStoppers at 704-861-8000.

(Watch the video below: New leash on life: Former dogfighting pit bull now a K-9 deputy)