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Dog warden cleared of cruelty charge

Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon did not cruelly handle a pit bull that was in his care, the executive director of the Toledo Humane Society ruled yesterday.

Mr. Skeldon had been accused by a dog-advocacy organization in Washington state of failing to prevent a pit bull that was in his care five years ago from injuring itself by gnawing on its metal cage. The group said he he took too long to sedate the dog.

Greg Bloomfield, executive director of the humane society, investigated the complaint at the request of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which had received the complaint from the Washington Animal Foundation. “With the difficulty of reconstructing a five-year-old incident, I've concluded there is not sufficient evidence justifying cruelty charges on the allegations made,” Mr. Bloomfield said.

In a written statement, Mr. Bloomfield said the pit bull, which was named Crusher, “had very aggressive tendencies and required special handling.”

The complaint stemmed from a videotape Mr. Skeldon's staff made of the dog at different times. One portion of the tape, recorded in April, 1997, showed Crusher bloodying its mouth by chewing on its metal cage at the dog pound.

Mr. Skeldon said the dog couldn't be immediately moved because the cages through which it had to travel to get to a safer one were occupied.

“I think it was not inhumane treatment of that dog by any stretch of the imagination,” Mr. Skeldon said. “We did what we could as fast as we could where we would be safe and he would be less likely to act that way.”

Another videotape recording from July, 1997, showed the dog swinging from a metal wire it had grabbed and held onto even after it had been tranquilized.

Mr. Skeldon said he thinks people who viewed the tape thought the incidents were part of the same event. He thinks the complaint was prompted because he showed the tape at a state conference about vicious dogs to support his views about how dangerous pit bulls could be.

He said he thinks the complaints are motivated by his public advocacy to enforce vicious dog laws.

Mr. Skeldon, president of the Ohio Dog Wardens Association, said he has encouraged other wardens to be as aggressive as he is about impounding pit bulls that are not properly confined.

His staff has seized 300 pit bulls this year that were improperly confined.

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