The state will call its last witness today in the trial of a South Toledo man charged with six counts of dog fighting for allegedly possessing six “pit bull”-type dogs that investigators say were fight-trained.
Carl Steward, 21, of 230 South Fearing Blvd. was indicted in April by a Lucas County grand jury on the fourth-degree felonies, which could carry up to 18 months of prison time for each count.
Mr. Steward, who pleaded not guilty, originally elected a jury trial but changed his mind at the last moment Monday, instead agreeing to a bench trial before Judge Gary Cook in Lucas County Common Pleas Court.
Lucas County Assistant Prosecutor Charles McDonald entered more than 150 items into evidence, including photos, videos, a home-made wooden treadmill designed specifically to chain a dog into it, and heavy “tow” chains, which he said were used to secure the six “pit bull”-type dogs to the floor.
Also found at the home, which did not contain any items that indicated people were living there, were antibiotics and de-wormers intended for horses. Three cow hides, which are commonly used as bait in training dogs to fight, also were entered into evidence.
“This home contained all of the tools needed to train dogs for fighting,” Mr. McDonald said during his opening statements. “It was hell on earth for six dogs.”
Police responding to a 911 call reporting a break-in at the Fearing residence on Jan. 31 found the dogs and determined Mr. Steward was the owner, according to evidence presented by the prosecution.
The dogs — five females and a male — were taken to the Lucas County Dog Warden’s office where they have been held as evidence since that date, despite an attempt by Mr. Steward to redeem them.
Lucas County Chief Dog Warden Julie Lyle, on the scene the night the dogs were seized, shot a video of the house and the conditions in which the dogs were found. Carpet had been removed from all rooms of the house and the floors were covered with plastic, which were then covered with wood chips to serve as bedding and absorb urine and feces.
Ms. Lyle testified that she tried to lead one of the dogs past the treadmill to take him out of the house, and he kept trying to jump on it. She finally gave his lead to the deputy dog warden on the scene and filmed him jumping on the treadmill and running at full speed. That video was one of several shown to the judge during the trial.
Five of the six dogs confiscated were in poor shape, testified Dr. Cindy Thurston, Lucas County Dog Warden veterinarian. The dogs were covered with both old and new bite wounds, several had fractures that were not properly cared for, and one was missing part of an ear.
Toledo Police Department Detective Doug Allen testified that he has no doubt the confiscated dogs were used in dog fights.
“The puncture wounds were absolutely consistent with everything I’ve seen involving dog fighting in the past 20 years,” Detective Allen said.
Mr. Steward, wearing a short-sleeved plaid shirt and blue pants, sat quietly next to Toledo defense attorney Phillip Carlisle, who said he intended to call the defendant as a witness.
During his opening statement, Mr. Carlisle said there is no proof that Mr. Steward had fought or intended to fight the dogs.
“Mr. Steward is a young man who has always had an interest in dogs,” he said. “He has always been interested in the American Pit Bull Terrier breed.”
Mr. Carlisle equated Mr. Steward to a low-cost neighborhood veterinarian.
“In this community, when people have issues with dogs, they take them to people who have knowledge,” he said. “That is the person Carl Steward has been, like a neighborhood mechanic.”