A young man who kept six “pit bull”-type dogs in a partially boarded up central Toledo house was found guilty Wednesday on five counts of dog fighting.
After a two-day bench trial, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Gary Cook convicted Carl Steward, 21, of 716 Cherry St., on five counts and acquitted him on one count that pertained to the youngest of the six dogs, a female which had no scars or injuries and was thought to have been kept for breeding.
“We’re pleased with the verdict,” said Julie Lyle, Lucas County dog warden. “It illustrates that dog fighting will not be tolerated in this community.”
Steward faces up to 18 months in prison on each charge when he is sentenced Nov. 20 by Judge Cook.
Steward and his attorney, Phil Carlisle, declined to comment afterward.
On Jan. 31, authorities seized the six dogs — five of which were badly scarred — along with a wooden treadmill and other equipment typically used in dog-fighting operations after police were called out on a report of a suspicious person at a home in the 200 block of South Fearing Boulevard. They found Steward’s dogs chained to the floor or in cages.
Steward took the witness stand in his defense Tuesday, saying he did not live in the house but had a rent-to-own contract and had been working on the house.
He said people in the neighborhood had given him the dogs because they wanted to get rid of them. He said he did not question why five of them were badly scarred.
Steward denied any involvement in dog fighting. He said he was training at least one of the dogs for competitive treadmill racing, citing the wooden treadmill he had purchased.
Judge Cook did not discuss his reasons for finding Steward guilty. The evidence included 155 state exhibits and two exhibits offered by the defense.
Charles McDonald, an assistant Lucas County prosecutor, said he was pleased by the verdicts.
Judge Cook allowed Steward to remain free on bond.
Ms. Lyle said the dog warden’s office likely would seek permanent custody of the dogs.
The office has been caring for the animals since Jan. 31.
She said she was unsure if they are adoptable.
“We have not evaluated them at this point because they’re not allowed to go anywhere,” she said. “We will evaluate each one of them individually and see if they’re safe for placement.”
Mr. McDonald said prosecutors also would be seeking restitution to cover the cost of the dogs’ care as a part of the sentence for Steward.
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-213-2134.