Eldridge Freeman, Jr., 44, of Dinwiddie County has been sentenced to 10 years in jail after being convicted of 37 counts of animal cruelty and dogfighting involving 26 dogs back in December. Additionally, Freeman received a lifetime ban on possessing or owning a companion animal. This sentencing follows a prosecution by Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s first in the nation Animal Law Unit.
According to evidence presented in court, Freeman participated in dogfighting at a property on Wilson Road in Dinwiddie County. Investigators found a 14x14x2 fighting pit outfitted with carpet, a tarp for a cover, and what appeared to be blood stains and smears on the inside. Dogfighting paraphernalia, heavily scarred dogs, wound dressings, and others items associated with dog breeding and dogfighting were also found on the property. Freeman housed the dogs in an inhumane way in plastic barrels, water tanks or plywood whelping boxes, all of which were not insulated and did not have bedding for the animals. Authorities seized 26 dogs from Freeman’s property.
The cases were prosecuted by Senior Assistant Attorney General K. Michelle Welch and Assistant Attorney General Kelci Block from Attorney General Herring’s first in the nation Animal Law Unit with assistance from the office of the Dinwiddie Commonwealth’s Attorney Ann Baskervill, the Office of the Dinwiddie Sheriff D.T. “Duck” Adams, Dinwiddie Animal Control, the Virginia Animal Fighting Task Force, and the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
In 2015, Attorney General Herring created the nation’s first OAG Animal Law Unit to serve as a training and prosecution resource for state agencies, investigators, and Commonwealth’s Attorneys around the state dealing with matters involving animal fighting, cruelty, and welfare. Illegal animal fighting is closely tied to illegal gambling, drug and alcohol crimes, and violence against animals has been shown to be linked to violence towards other people. To date the unit has handled more than 973 matters, to include trainings, prosecutions, and consultations.