A man wanted on several warrants led Toledo police to a house in a central-city neighborhood where authorities said they found five children alone with five pit bulls and a loaded rifle yesterday morning.
Authorities also found a dogfighting pit inside the house and other paraphernalia, such as heavy chains they said are often used to strengthen pit bulls.
Though the children were asleep and appeared healthy when police arrived, Officer Barb Jackson said the situation could have ended differently.
"The tragedy that could have ensued is frightening," she said.
The mother of four of the children, Allison Gilmore, 27, of 1407 Belmont Ave., is to be arraigned in Toledo Municipal Court today on a misdemeanor child-endangering charge.
Ms. Gilmore, who is free on $500 bond, could spend up to six months in jail if convicted, authorities said.
She was convicted last year of four counts of failing to register pit bulls, three counts of failure to vaccinate pit bulls, and one count of failing to confine a vicious dog, according to Municipal Court records.
Her children, ranging in age from 2 months to 9 years, are staying with relatives, said Julie Malkin, spokesman for Lucas County Children Services.
A 7-year-old boy, who was at the house, was released to his mother, Ms. Malkin said.
Police searched a garage at the property and found three pit bulls chained in the structure and two more in the yard.
Two of the pit bulls had to be tranquilized because of their aggressive behavior before being transported to the Lucas County Dog Warden's office. Tom Skeldon, the county dog warden, said at least four of the pit bulls had scarring consistent with dogfighting.
"They had been fought," he said.
The fighting pit, where investigators said they found dried blood and a pit bull, could be looked down on from a window in the dining room.
"You stand there and view it, and there is nowhere for the dogs to go," police Capt. Leo Eggert said. "[It's] clearly evidence of dogfighting."
The dogfighting investigation continued and charges are pending, police said.
The chain of events that led police to the house began about 7:50 a.m. on a domestic violence call in the 1100 block of Pinewood Avenue, police said.
Officer Jackson began chasing a suspect who was wanted on felony burglary and assault charges, and saw him running near a house on Belmont.
A few minutes later, Officer Jackson saw a man who matched the description of the suspect, who appeared to be sleeping on the porch of the Belmont home. The man told Officer Jackson he lived there with his uncle. When Officer Jackson knocked on the door to verify the information, she saw a 2-year-old girl and 2-month-old boy asleep on the couch.
Officer Jackson checked the rest of the house for an adult and found three more children asleep in an upstairs bedroom.
The man Officer Jackson was chasing was not apprehended.
The oldest boy told Officer Jackson not to go into a bedroom where one pit bull was being kept.
The child told her, "That dog bites very hard," she said.
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