A Toledo man convicted last year of dogfighting is attempting to appeal his case. Meanwhile, the four survivors of his six dogs are thriving.
Carl Steward, 21, who court records say lives at 1545 Avondale Ave., filed a three-sentence handwritten statement with the Ohio 6th District Appeals Court last week requesting a delayed appeal. Though an offender typically has a 30-day time limit to file a notice of appeal, an individual can petition the court to accept a delayed notice.
“I would like to file for a delay appeals, but I asked my appointed counsel for an appeal and it never happened,” Steward wrote.
In October, Steward was found guilty in Lucas County Common Pleas Court of five felony counts of dogfighting. He was acquitted on one count relating to a young female dog because she had no fighting scars and had not been bred.
Steward does not yet have an attorney for his appeal. His attorney for his 2013 trial, Phillip Carlisle of Toledo, did not return several phone calls from The Blade.
Toledo police originally discovered the six “pit bulls” caged and chained to the floor in an otherwise vacant, boarded-up house in the 200 block of South Fearing Boulevard in January, 2013.
The dogs, who were housed at the Lucas County Canine Care & Control since they were seized and came to be known as the “Fearing Six,” were spared by the judge and allowed to be evaluated for possible rehabilitation. They were the first ex-fighters in Lucas County's history to be given a second chance.
Until 2012, “pit bulls” were deemed inherently vicious under Ohio law and were subsequently killed without any opportunity for evaluation or rehabilitation. Tom Skeldon, the former Lucas County dog warden who was ousted from his job in 2009, was known to be hostile toward “pit bull”-type dogs.
The dogs were evaluated in December by experts Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer, the co-founders of BADRAP, a California “pit bull” rescue, education, and advocacy group established in 1999.
Though BADRAP had not recommended it, Bear, the only male in the group, and a female named Eleanor, were killed later that month. Julie Lyle, director of the county shelter, said the pair’s severe dog aggression and Bear’s intolerance of handling resulted in her decision to euthanize them.
The Lucas County Pit Crew took in three of the dogs this year: Honeysuckle in January, Butterball in early February, and Mopsy later the same month. The final dog, McCaela, was transferred in March to a foster home in Utah with Jasmine’s House, a rescue group associated with a group of canines known as “Vicktory Dogs” seized from NFL player Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels in 2007.
Honeysuckle, whom the Pit Crew renamed Joy, was adopted in February by a family outside of Lucas County. Her adopters choose to remain anonymous to protect their dog, but report that she is happy and gets along with the household cats. Because of the malnutrition and broken legs she suffered before her rescue, she has since developed a heart condition. She also has a peculiar habit, presumably a remnant of the trauma she endured.
“If they go out and about, she still goes and checks that all her belongings are still there when they get home, like she’s worried it will disappear,” Jean Keating, executive director of the Pit Crew, said.
Butterball, now named Georgia, is up for adoption. She has garnered some interest but has not yet found a permanent home.
“She’s just a really cool dog,” Ms. Keating said. “She’s silly and funny, and has a real fondness for kids. ... She’s really easy-going and friendly, an all-around nice dog.”
The third Fearing Six canine in the Pit Crew group is Mopsy, now called Monet. She is also up for adoption and has shown a propensity for obedience training.
“She’s extremely intelligent,” Ms. Keating said. “She’s very people-focused and learns very quickly.”
The final surviving dog, McCaela, could be getting adopted soon from her foster home in Utah.
“She’s made so much progress and has done amazingly well,” Katie Dion said. Ms. Dion and her wife, Jennifer Holliday, have been fostering McCaela since March and created a Facebook page for her called “The Journey of McCaela.”
McCaela was “very needy” at first, always wanting to be in people’s faces to get attention and did not know how to interact with other dogs. She now lives in a pack of seven canines and is picking up obedience training.
She also will undergo a treatment for babesia, a blood-borne microscopic parasite she tested positive for that could make her sick in the future.
“She hasn’t had any flare-ups, but [the treatment] will help ensure her quality of life,” Ms. Dion said.
Together, the four survivors are now known locally as the “Freedom Four.” A Facebook page has been created for the quartet using the moniker.
Meanwhile, Steward is serving the first part of his sentence at the Corrections Center of Northwest Ohio near Stryker. He was sentenced to six months at the regional facility and is estimated to be released from there in mid-May.
He is then to be at the Correctional Treatment Facility in Toledo for six months, followed by three months in Lucas County’s work-release program, and three months on electronic monitoring.
The court also placed Steward on community control for five years, assigned him 100 hours of community service, and required him to undergo random drug testing and maintain employment. He was also banned from owning another dog and ordered to pay $12,030 in restitution to the county dog shelter.