more about Pit Bulls:
I don't know the details of how your dogs came to be loose, but there seems to be a pattern of irresponsibility involved. Your actions have caused so much pain and suffering, not only to the those directly involved, but to the breed as a whole. Responsible pit bull guardians pay for your actions in insurance premiums and the restrictions of dangerous dog legislation, let alone the damage done to the breed's reputation.
Your concern comes far too late, and I am not sympathetic to anyone except the dogs (yours and the dog who was killed) and the other dog's guardians.
fate of your dogs is probably going to be euthanasia. Please do not do
this to another dog. Every dog deserves a guardian who will never knowingly put
him/her in a position where he/she is allowed to be harmed or to harm another.
A pit bull requires a tremendous commitment from his/her human. Anyone who is
not willing to make that commitment should not take in any animal, particularly
a pit bull.
Ringleader Gets 3-Year Sentence
CHARLOTTE COUNTY -- Evan B. Robinson, convicted in August on five animal-abuse charges, strode into court for his sentencing Monday and flashed a grin to a TV camera before taking his spot next to his attorney.
Facing up to 20 years incarceration, stemming from a videotaped dogfight at his home two years ago, Robinson, 51, was sentenced by Judge Sherra J. Winesett to three years in prison and two more years of probation.
A jury had convicted Robinson of four third-degree felonies, which included animal cruelty, dog fight promotion and managing and operating a dog fighting facility.
Among the courtroom audience members Monday were a couple of dozen animal-rights supporters, including board members from the Animal Welfare League, the shelter that received five of the dogs seized from Robinson's home. A handful of Charlotte County Animal Control officers also attended.
Robinson, in a 17-page letter delivered to the court Monday, said he didn't give anyone permission to fight dogs that day in April two years ago -- the day sheriff's deputies raided his home and found a bloodied fighting pit and spectators fleeing into nearby woods.
In breeding pit bulls, Robinson said in his handwritten letter, "one of the qualities is to see how aggressive your dog wants to be, remembering these are American pit bull terriers.
"To do this, you test your animals against another animal. Not letting them fight, you let them hit each other and then break them. This is called bumping the dogs. This is not fighting; it is only testing them for aggression."
State prosecutor Daniel P. Feinberg scoffed at this notion. He called the videos taken of the fights horrendous, and he called Robinson's letter a veritable "dog-fighting manifesto."
Animal Welfare League board member Carmen C. Connors said the sentence didn't reflect the gravity of Robinson's actions.
got off easy," Connors said.
Also, Robinson, who Feinberg said has previous felony convictions for burglary and attempted drug trafficking, isn't allowed to own a dog until after his probation ends.
Cpl. Rickey Hobbs of the Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, which handled the investigation, said busting dog-fighting outfits isn't easy.
"Without having someone, quote, 'on the inside,' you don't know where they are going to be," he said.
The authorities had dropped by Robinson's home on an anonymous tip.
the 100 or so people at the house, about 20 were arrested, Feinberg said. Most
of those arrested were sentenced to probation or short jail terms.
Sentences Ever Imposed in Dogfighting Cases
In July, a Northern California man charged with running a professional-level, illegal dogfighting operation out of his home in Galt, received what is believed to be the longest prison term ever imposed in such a case. Cesar Cerda was sentenced to seven years in state prison by Sacramento Superior Court Judge Peter Mering in exchange for his no-contest plea to 63 felony counts related to dogfighting and other charges. Cerda's wife, Mercedes Ruiz Monterrubio, pleaded no contest to four misdemeanor charges in exchange for a sentence of six months in the county jail.
Working with The HSUS's West Coast Regional Office and the Sacramento County Department of Animal Care and Regulation, Galt police detectives arrested the couple last December on suspicion of running an illegal dogfighting operation. Officers seized 55 pit bull terriers, many of who were heavily scarred from previous fights, along with equipment used to fight dogs, stolen veterinary supplies, and videotapes of dogfights. "Cesar Cerda was a major player," said Eric Sakach, WCRO regional director. "He was totally immersed in the activity. He not only bred, raised, and conditioned his own dogs for the pit, but he also coached others who were new to the game."
Two other men pleaded guilty to charges of burglary and no contest to conspiracy for their roles in the Christmas-morning theft of 18 dogs who were being held as evidence from the Sacramento County Animal Shelter. One received 120 days in the county jail, while the other received two years in state prison. The stolen dogs were recovered.
"In particular, the Sacramento District Attorney's Office and the Galt Police Department are to be commended for the serious attention given to these cases," said Sakach. "Despite better laws and increasing enforcement, the guilty parties frequently avoid more sever penalties. Too often dogfighters and cockfighters receive little more than a slap on the wrist and probation because prosecutors and the courts don't understand the serious nature of these crimes and the level of cruelty involved. These cases will go a long way in changing all that."
"We have done some research, and we believe these sentences are among the toughest in the country," said Sacramento Deputy District Attorney Brian Myers, who prosecuted the cases. "These cases will set a precedent for many other cases to come." HSUS staff worked closely with the district attorney's staff throughout the prosecution and were present at each of the court appearances to answer questions.
Intelligence and evidence gathered by investigators during the Galt case led to additional search warrants being served in February and April in Stanislaus, San Joaquin, and Kern counties in California. WCRO staff assisted law enforcement officers in each of the subsequent cases, which resulted in the seizure of illegal drugs, assault-type weapons, dogfighting paraphernalia, and a combined total of nearly 100 fighting dogs. In Kern County in May, Russ Herren of Tehachapi, California, pleaded guilty to multiple charges related to dogfighting, marijuana cultivation, and possession of weapons by a felon. Herren was sentenced to four years in state prison. Trials are pending in the remaining cases and the investigation is continuing.
The HSUS is a leader in the fight to end animal fighting. HSUS staff have aided in the investigation and prosecution of numerous animal-fighting ventures, and have helped train local law enforcement personnel to successfully investigate such cases. All over the country, HSUS task forces have formed to help stop these brutal events. There are training materials and a video available to any group wishing to learn more. Contact WCRO for more information. http://www.forpetsake.com
Best Friends Magazine
Stray fighting dogs and domestic pets that courts have deemed dangerous used to committed to canine death row. But the Berlin Internment Home has set up a program that is designed to turn these bullies into friendly companions. The dogs face tasks that include chasing sticks and running obstacle courses, along with heavy behavorial training.
Although it's a high-security facility with a 15 foot fence to stop animals escaping, its location has been kept secret to prevent people who discover that their pets are there from staging jailbreaks.
Last night at 8:06 p.m., I watched history happen. The U.S. Senate unanimously passed the Animal Fighting Prohibition Enforcement Act.
The House of Representatives passed the same bill, H.R. 137, late last month by a vote of 368 to 39. What this means is that after an almost six-year battle, the struggle to enact meaningful federal penalties for animal fighting has passed its final congressional hurdle. The legislation now is headed to the desk of President Bush, who is expected to sign the measure into law. The new law will take effect immediately, and I can assure you that this is a dark and long-dreaded day in the dogfighting and cockfighting worlds.
I cannot tell you know grateful I am for the efforts of each of you who sent emails, made phone calls, wrote letters and visited your federal legislators on Capitol Hill and in their home districts. You kept the pressure on and your tireless efforts and support made the difference. The cockfighting lobby was organized, and its leaders poured hundreds of thousands of dollars to derail the legislation -- but we out-hustled them and we carried the day.
Nearly every week, there are reports of dog fighting and cockfighting crimes in the United States. It is a vast underground network of people who revel in seeing animals tear one another apart and gamble on the outcomes of the staged spectacles. Now federal law enforcement officials have the tools they need to uproot these underground animal fighting enterprises and put a halt to the the abhorrent cruelty inflicted on dogs, birds and other animals.
I hope this victory inspires you to keep working on behalf of public policies to protect animals. Animal fighting pits will be closing throughout the nation, and it is joyous day for animals. This victory reminds us to never to give up, and that there are rewards for compassionate action and perseverance. Please share this tremendous news with others and let them know that you had a part in making it happen.
Backpacks slung from one shoulder, children jump from the yellow school bus and run to their mothers for welcome-home hugs.
Once again, the cul-de-sac in a middle-class Grove City subdivision seems safe -- an idyllic neighborhood for the 28 youngsters growing up there.
But for six months last winter on Ziner Court, fear hung in the air, brought on by one resident: Timothy Elkins, who has been indicted in Franklin County Common Pleas Court on 21 counts of dogfighting and is set to be arraigned May 20.
Elkins left Ziner Court abruptly after deputy sheriffs knocked down his front door Feb. 22 and raided the home where, authorities say, he was raising, training and breeding more than 20 pit bulls with his girlfriend.
But the ominous influence that his presence exerted on the neighborhood in the short time he lived there illustrates the reach that dogfighting-related activities can have in a community.
Although organized dogfighting is prohibited in all 50 states, the Humane Society of the United States estimates the activity has increased 300 percent in the past 10 years. The estimates are based on the society's database of dogfighters and on increases in the numbers of dogfights reported in the underground publication Sporting Dog Journal.
Animal activists and law-enforcement officials say that pitting dogs against one another in bloody fights has been on the upswing in Ohio. Other illegal activities often accompany it, especially gambling and drug trafficking.
Ohio has a serious problem, said Sandy Rowland, director of the Humane Society's Great Lakes region. Of the 20,000 names of dogfighters the society has collected and verified from across the country, 583 live in Ohio, she said. She suspects more but said that Ohio law enforcement, for the most part, hasn't pursued many dogfighters.
"The problem is getting worse and more ubiquitous," said Tom Skeldon, dog warden in Lucas County in northwest Ohio.
Skeldon, perhaps the most zealous dog warden in the state when it comes to dogfighting, said the practice "has traditionally been under-reported, under-prosecuted and has had very few convictions" nationwide.
Statistics are scant for an illegal activity that stays largely underground. Word of upcoming fights is passed among dog owners and gamblers, and the sight of an unfamiliar face near a fight is enough to shut it down, with participants disappearing in a hurry.
Even law-enforcement officials hesitate to talk about ongoing investigations for fear of tipping off those involved.
Still, officials have taken aim at stopping the practice and cracking down on offenders:
* The Franklin County Sheriff's Office has searched seven properties as part of a nine-month investigation into dogfighting. From those raids, 49 pit bulls have been confiscated, including 20 from Elkins' Ziner Court property. On March 29, a grand jury indicted him on 21 counts of dogfighting and one count of having a criminal tool -- a dog treadmill.
* From 1995 to 2001, the number of criminal charges filed in Franklin County Environmental Court for dog-related incidents such as failure to confine or insure vicious dogs skyrocketed from three to 706. Often the same people who are convicted on these charges are suspected of being part of the world of dogfighting.
* In Licking County, Edward Carter of Columbus was sentenced to three years of probation and prohibited from owning dogs for three years after pleading guilty in February to 15 counts of dogfighting.
* In March, pit bulls were confiscated from the properties of two people suspected of dogfighting in Fairfield County. Last month, Clifford and Lori Browning of Stoutsville were found guilty of failing to confine two pit bulls. Two of the dogs -- those deemed too dangerous to be returned to the Brownings -- are scheduled to be euthanized, but a date has not been set because the owners are appealing the decision. The couple paid $1,000 to retrieve the other dogs.
* In Morrow County, a Marengo woman and an auxiliary deputy sheriff were found guilty of dogfighting in 1998 in a case that involved 34 pit bulls. That case was one of the few where law-enforcement officers raided a dog fight.
* Dogfighters have been charged in the past few months in Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Mississippi, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Washington.
* An Ohio task force examined the issue of dogfighting for nine months and in mid-April proposed changes to strengthen state law and make the public more aware of the practice.
Signs of trouble
Although dogfighting has long existed in central Ohio, "in the last five or six years, it's become really bad," said Kerry Manion, director of operations at the Capital Area Humane Society and an animal-cruelty investigator for 18 years.
"I'm alarmed at how blatant it's becoming."
Two types exist: amateur and professional.
"Usually, the amateur type involves nothing but ego," said Dan C. Knapp, director of the society. "Someone who wants to look mean and tough gets a pit bull and they fight them on a spontaneous basis."
Columbus Police Officer Matthew Marlette sees many signs of that kind of fighting in the Franklinton area.
"I've seen them where dogs have 20 pounds of chain around their necks to strengthen them," he said, "and I've seen tires hanging in trees for the dogs to jump up and grab them to strengthen them."
Officers sometimes receive reports of street-level dogfighting in empty lots, but the fights are over by the time police arrive, Marlette said.
Organized fighting is more clandestine -- yet so widespread that U.S. dogfighting magazines such as the Sporting Dog Journal carry ads for breeders as far away as Russia, Sweden and Thailand.
Manion likens the secretive nature of dogfighting to the Ku Klux Klan in past years.
Rowland said police usually hear about a dogfight from a disgruntled wife.
One of the few fights busted by the national Humane Society came to light in a call from a woman who said her husband was traveling to a fight in Michigan.
When he arrived at his hotel, he called and told his wife where he was and that he would be led to the fight from there. She informed authorities, and they followed the caravan of participants to the fight.
A 'family event'
Knapp, hired by the Capital Area Humane Society in December, became familiar with professional dogfighting during his 15 years as director of a dog shelter and a humane society in California.
"Dogfighting is a family event," often held in a large warehouse, he said. "Children watch, and there can be concession stands at one end, gambling somewhere else, and over in this corner they'll be selling cocaine and crack."
According to the Franklin County prosecutor's office, no one has been found guilty of dogfighting here in recent memory.
But it's a myth, say animal activists, that most dogfighting takes place on rural back roads.
"Definitely, there's a larger problem here with dogfighting than in other places," said Craig Turk, assistant director at the Franklin County Animal Shelter.
For nearly a year, the sheriff's special-investigations unit has been tracking local dog breeders and fighters, trying to get on the inside of the closed society.
Prosecuting dogfighters is difficult because it's underground: No one is admitted to a fight unless known to the organizers or accompanied by a known dogfighter, said Chief Deputy Steve Martin, who's heading the investigation.
It took the department months to gather enough evidence to search the homes of several suspected dog breeders and fighters. Only one of them -- Elkins -- has been indicted on dogfighting charges.
Franklin County deputy dog warden Erin Frost sees the sad results of dogfighting: emaciated pit bulls chained to large cement blocks behind huge backyard fences without food or water, shivering in their short-haired coats in winter and panting in the heat of summer.
"On chains on a cement slab -- that does not say pets to me," Frost said. "Any breeder of a dog would not keep them in this manner."
That's what Frost, a warden for two years, saw Feb. 22 at Elkins' Grove City home. A brown privacy fence surrounded the back yard of the house at the end of the street.
The dogs she found there had scars on their ears, faces and front legs, she said.
"It seemed apparent they'd been fighting."
Nine were chained to concrete blocks; 11 others were in the basement and garage. Another dog was found at the home of one of Elkins' relatives.
Dogs are "more like property" to dogfighters, Turk said. "A lot of people use them as tools rather than pets."
Used up, tossed out
Amy Jennings said she and other Franklin County deputy wardens come across dogs used for fighting about once a week. They pick up about 150 pit bulls a month.
The dogs are "just tossed" when they're too injured or otherwise no longer good for fighting, she said.
Most pit bulls used for fighting are found in poorer neighborhoods but occasionally in more affluent areas, as with the Elkins case, she said.
Often along with the dogs, Jennings finds trash cans full of vitamins, "doggie drugs" and fighting equipment:
* Treadmills, either homemade or purchased, are used to strengthen dogs for battle. A dog is hooked into the treadmill with a harness and forced to run on its revolving belt.
* A cat mill resembles a maypole. Two stiff wires run off either side of the pole. The dog is attached to the end of one wire. A cat or other small animal is strapped to the end of the other, and the dog chases it around the pole. After training, the dog often is allowed to maul its prey.
* A fighting pit is generally 14 to 24 feet square with a border of wood about 2 feet high. That's where the dogs face off and fight, surrounded by owners and spectators.
A duplex that Elkins recently owned at 2368 S. 5th St. on the South Side had a fighting pit in the basement, according to a family living in one side of the house in March. In the side and back yards, pit bulls had been chained to posts cemented into the ground, said the renter, who identified himself only as Mark.
"We heard that plenty of people used to come and watch the dogfights here on Saturday and Sunday nights," he said.
"We found four dead dogs on the property and there were six live ones here when we moved in. They were skinny, skinny, skinny. You could see their bones."
On the unoccupied side of the double, something akin to a large aquarium on legs stood in the front room. Mark said it was a breeding container, used because pit bulls often have to be held while breeding so they don't tear each other apart.
A pile of papers Mark found in the house included charts of dog lineages, detailed directions on how to prepare a dog for a fight, receipts for the purchases and sales of pit bulls, snapshots of pit bulls, and information from Web sites about steroids.
By late April, both sides of the double were vacant, but the yard remained littered with dog equipment -- fat metal chains, plywood doghouses with chewed doors, scattered metal dog bowls, white-plastic barrel doghouses. The remains of a 5-foot privacy fence were stacked in a corner, and a sign on the door of one unit ordered trespassers to stay away.
Connie Cordial knows well the effect that pit-bull breeders can have on a neighborhood.
For nearly two years, pit bulls barked day and night next door to her house in the Riverbend subdivision on the West Side. Worse than the barking was the snarling and snapping when dogs escaped their cages and attacked one another in spontaneous fights.
"You could hear the dog screams all over the neighborhood," Cordial said. "Fights would break out, and there'd be blood everywhere. I'd just shake all over when it would start."
The dogs -- as many as 15 at a time -- lived in the back yard next to her house on Ripplebrook Road. Her neighbor's son and girlfriend, Demetri Jackson and Latisha Britton, bred and sold the dogs for $250 each from January 2000 until October 2001.
Although Cordial and other neighbors repeatedly complained about the dogs to police and the Humane Society, nothing happened until another neighbor videotaped five of the pit bulls ganging up on a weaker dog and mauling it. When police came to investigate, they found the dog in a crate, nearly dead and covered with blood. The dog had died by the next morning.
Jackson and Britton were found guilty of animal cruelty in Environmental Court and ordered to clean up the yard, then move. Britton had previously been found guilty of 32 other dog-related charges in the court, including failure to confine, insure and license pit bulls.
Pit bulls as neighbors
On Ziner Court, fear set in after Elkins moved in with Christel Chenoweth, who owned the house with her estranged husband, Max.
Elkins and his pit bulls showed up around October 2001.
Neighbors say that one of Max and Christel's three towheaded young daughters would proudly walk one of the pit-bull puppies around the cul-de-sac on a leash. Once the Ziner Court mothers realized that the pup was a pit bull, they warned their children to run inside when any of the dogs came out.
"You just knew something weird was up," neighbor Jessica Morin said. "We all knew they were selling pit-bull puppies. Several neighbors called the dog warden."
Rumors spread from neighbor to neighbor about the goings-on at the Elkins house. Cars filled with people stopped at the house at all hours of the day and night, neighbors said. A passenger would hop out, run to the door, collect something, then jump back in the car.
On Feb. 22, armed SWAT officers moved in, knocking down the front door and searching the house, yard and garage. Animal-control officers filled five vans with Elkins' pit bulls, including two pregnant females. Deputies took out a long list of items, including a canine treadmill, canine vaccine, syringes, a computer and 11 DVDs about dogs.
In the midst of the raid, the yellow school bus pulled up and dropped off the children of Ziner Court.
Eventually, Elkins and Chenoweth were brought out of the house in handcuffs. They were later released; investigators would not say why.
Days later, Elkins disappeared from the house. Within a few weeks, Chenoweth, who worked as an exotic dancer, also had moved out, leaving the house empty except for a small cat that lurks around the front door.
In April, Elkins was sent to federal prison for a year on a counterfeiting charge unrelated to dogfighting. Neighbors said Chenoweth is living with a sister, and her children are with their father.
"We're awfully glad that it's over," said Emma Ingram, who lives with her son and his family in one of the neighboring houses.
"Neighborhood children play outside all the time, and I was so afraid. Anything can set a pit bull off."
* Being a spectator at a dog fighting event is illegal in 46 states
The possession of dogs for fighting purposes is prohibited in 39 states.
of Possible Dogfighting Activity
* Pit bulls with short, cropped ears
* Dogs with scars on head, throat, legs and ears
* Dogs wearing 2-inch-wide collars
* Tires or pieces of leather suspended several feet off the ground from trees, used to exercise dogs
* Treadmills for exercising dogs
* Locked privacy fences
* Dogs leashed with heavy chains to metal posts in the ground
* Dogs being moved from a house frequently in cages
* Dogs and people coming and going frequently from a site
Dogs forced to pull heavy items such as chains and tire rims to strengthen muscles
note: I understand that many of these activities are common to those who do not
fight their dogs ~ we actually meet a few of these criteria
Source: The Toledo Humane Society
2002, Volume XI, #4
Excerpt from "Fewer Fighters, More Dogs"
Pueblo, Colorado -- Issuing one of the stiffest sentences yet given to a convicted dogfighter, District Judge Scott Epstein of Pueblo, Colorado, on April 15, 2002 sent Brian Keith Speer to state prison for six years.
Speer, 32, of Colorado Springs, is to serve 18 concurrent three-year sentences for 18 felony counts of animal fighting, plus three more years for his felonious mistreatment of one especially badly injured pit bull terrier found in his possession during a June 2000 raid on his trailer home near Boone.
Speer was convicted on February 11, after a four day jury trial.
"In June 2000," reported Patric Malone of the Pueble Chieftan, "36 adult pit bulls and eight puppies were confiscated" from Speer, almost all of whom were later killed at the Pueble animal control shelter because of aggressive behavior. "Animal control officers also seized performance-enhancing drugs commonly used by breeders who train dogs to fight. Many of the animals had severe wounds at various stages of healing, indicating that they had been involved in fights over an extended span. In addition, officers seized a bloodstained rug that had been taped off into the dimensions of a dogfighting ring. Evidence," Malone wrote, "included a poem Speer wrote about Gatoree, a prize dog of his, dying in his arms after a valiant effort in the ring."
The prosecution indicated that Speer was associated with dogfighters in many other states and possibly in Mexico.
The Speer sentencing came five days after Associate Judge Diane Brunton of Macoupin County, Illinois, ordered accused dogfighter Jeffrey M. Giller to post bond of $90,000 or forfeit 17 pit bull terriers. Arrested on March 28, Giller, 24 was jailed in lieu of posting bail of $300,000 on four counts of felony dogfighting, plus $20,000 bail on misdemeanor charges of domestic violence and aggravated assault.
"Sheriff's deputies noticed the dogs," wrote Robert Goodrich of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, "when they went to Giller's property to investigate a domestic violence complaint by a girlfriend."
"These are violent crimes," comented attorney Ledy Van Kavage, representing the Belleville Area Humane Society and the American SPCA. "Dogfighting is a blood sport. Those who do this are usually not nice people. Usually drug crimes and weapons crimes are involved, too."
For example, Tallahassee Democrat staff writer James L. Rosica found in looking up the criminal history of Arthur "Mo Jo" Hutchinson, 45, of Family Circle, Florida, that in addition to the four felony charges of dogfighting, cocaine possession with intent to sell, and possession of drug paraphernalia brought against him in November 2001, Hutchinson had been in trouble since 1975 for possession of a sawed-off shotgun, auto burglary, auto theft, robbery, and aggravated child abuse. He served nine years in state prison on the child abuse charges."
The remainder of this article, as well as a searchable archives, can be seen at: www.animalpeoplenews.org.
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