Man pleads guilty for dog cruelty

The Maiden man accused of killing and depriving numerous beagle dogs pleaded guilty Friday to five counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals.

Billy Roy Hewitt, 63, of Maiden, will pay a $100 fine and $1,000 restitution fee to Catawba County after pleading guilty to “willfully and intentionally” killing three dogs and depriving two others.

In March, animal control officers served a search warrant at Hewitt’s home after neighbors reported foul smells and dead dogs in the Maiden man’s yard. Officers reported finding about 100 dog carcasses on Hewitt’s property during the search.

About 20 beagles were rescued from the property and signed over to the Catawba County Animal Shelter. One dog was euthanized and several received extensive veterinary treatment, said animal shelter Director Jay Blatche.

Hewitt was charged with animal cruelty to five of the dogs after three of them died and two were “deprived of necessary sustenance,” according to Hewitt’s criminal summons.

On Friday, Hewitt entered a plea agreement with the state. In addition to paying the $100 fine, $1,000 restitution fee and court costs, he will go on supervised probation until he pays all his fees. He will then be put on unsupervised probation. During his probation, he cannot own or keep any type of animal.

After his court appearance, Hewitt said has cared for dogs for 25 years and never meant for anything like this to happen.

“I’ve taken care of dogs for years and have even done it for free,” Hewitt said. “I’ve been done in for no reason at all.”

Hewitt said he has battled health issues recently and has been in and out of the hospital for treatment, even getting a metal plate installed in his head after a serious 4-wheeler accident. While he was in the hospital, Hewitt paid a neighbor named “Chico” $60 to care for the beagles. Hewitt said the dogs were starved and killed because the neighbor never watched the dogs.

“He didn’t take care of them,” Hewitt said. “And I couldn’t follow up with him taking care of the dogs because I was in the hospital the whole time.”

Hewitt also said there were dead dogs on his property before animal control officers investigated, but maintained there were less than 10 on the premises.

Close friends to Hewitt say the man has never mistreated dogs in the time they have known them. LaDonna Whithers, who accompanied Hewitt to court Friday, said she has known the accused for 21 years.

“Bill Hewitt is a fine man, and he’s helped so many people out with their dogs,” Whithers said, adding that her friend is a very caring person.

Whithers presented a document signed by Duan Farm Supply Owner Barry Drum that attested to Hewitt buying 150 to 200 pounds of dog feed a week for his beagles. It was unclear if the form was used in the court hearing.

Though Hewitt will pay a $1,000 restitution fee to the county, Blatche said it cost about $5,000 total for the beagles’ veterinary care, adding that one of the rescued beagles even had to have one of his hind legs amputated because of severe bit marks.

All of the surviving beagles were taken by rescue groups, Blatche said.

Even though Hewitt would be allowed to have animals again when his probation ends, he said he is finished keeping dogs.

“I’ve torn down all my dog lots,” Hewitt said. “I’m done keeping dogs.”