Numbers rise for dogfights, illegal pit bulls

By Joshua Benton
Blade Staff Writer

Page 14

The number of pit bulls owned illegally, and the dogfights in which they star, are on the rise in the Toledo area, Lucas County’s dog warden said.

“It’s getting bigger and bigger,” Dog Warden Thomas Skeldon said.

For the fourth year in a row, the number of pit bulls seized by the dog warden’s office has increased, Mr. Skeldon said. In 1993, 50 pit bulls were taken from their owners; last year, the number was up to 208.

So far this year, the county has seized about 185 pit bulls, and it’s only September.

Between Thursday and Sunday, the dog warden seized 12 pit bulls in four incidents. In one raid last week at a house at 1698 Avondale Ave., police confiscated veterinary syringes, a high-tech treadmill, and other training equipment – signs the dogs were being prepared for a match.

The number of seizures has increased as gangs have become more involved, Mr. Skeldon said.

Dogfighting is big business; $40,000 or more can change hands in a single night, he said.

Mr. Skeldon estimated there are more than 2,000 pit bulls in Lucas County, and up to three-quarters of them are involved in illegal dogfighting, either as competitors or as breeding stock.

“We just see the tip of the iceberg,” he said.

Dogfighting carries a maximum penalty of 12 months in jail and a $2,500 fine. A bill proposed by state Rep. Jack Ford (D., Toledo) would increase those penalties to 18 months and a $5,000 fine. Mr. Skeldon said that would help reduce dogfighting.

It is legal to own a pit bull in Toledo, but dogs must be licensed, vaccinated, and properly confined. Owners must take out a $50,000 insurance policy to cover costs if the dog attacks a human.

In the city limits, dog owners are not allowed to have more than one pit bull at a residence.