Carl Steward, of 716 Cherry Street in Toledo, Ohio, was found guilty on five counts of dog fighting on Tuesday, Oct. 23, in a case prosecutors admitted was circumstantial.
Steward, 21, had been accused of training six American Pit Bull Terriers for fighting. He was acquitted on one count of dog fighting, relating to a dog who had no scars but was purported to have been kept for breeding purposes.
After hearing testimony on Monday and Tuesday, Lucas County Common Pleas Judge Gary Cook announced his verdicts in the case about 2 p.m., the Toledo Blade reports.
Steward took the stand and testified in his own defense on Tuesday, claiming he had always liked American Pit Bull Terriers but had never been involved in dog fighting. He said, “I like going to shows.” He said he used a wooden treadmill confiscated by officers to train at least one of the dogs for legal treadmill racing competitions.
He told the court on Tuesday that he was leasing the home in which the six Pit Bulls were found, but he was not living in it. He said he had pulled up the carpet, then put plastic and wood chips on the floor to make it easier to clean up after the dogs, four of which were confined with chains and two in cages. “With a crate, they can get out by chewing on it and an incident could happen,” Steward said.
Authorities seized the six dogs on Jan. 31 after receiving a call about a suspicious person at a home in the 200 block of South Fearing Boulevard. Five dogs were badly scarred.
They also confiscated various equipment typically used in dog fighting operations, , including a wooden treadmill, heavy chains bolted to the floor, a hanging scale, antibiotics and de-wormers intended for horses, and three animal hides used to bait dogs in training, according to the Toledo Blade.
Mark Kumpf, director of the Montgomery County Animal Resource Center, said all of the evidence he examined points to dog fighting.
Assistant Lucas County prosecutor Charles McDonald questioned Steward repeatedly about the fact he never told investigators he was training his dogs for treadmill racing and he asked him how some of his dogs had received fresh wounds. Steward insisted the dogs were scarred when they were given to him by people in the neighborhood who wanted to get rid of them. He denied seeing any fresh wounds when he checked on them Jan. 30.
Defense attorney Phil Carlisle told the court in closing arguments that prosecutors had not proved Steward was keeping or training the dogs for fighting.
“Mr. Steward is a young man who has testified has always had an interest in dogs,” Carlisle said. “We may not agree with the way that he kept his dogs or the way he cared for his dogs, but I think based on his testimony I think it’s clear that he did the best he could under his own personal circumstances and according to his own personal background and upbringing.”
Prosecutor McDonald said that, while the case was circumstantial, there could be no other conclusion.
“The aggression that was placed in these dogs cannot be removed,” said McDonald. “The scars cannot be erased, but we can still speak for these dogs in the community. We can show that we will not tolerate the disgusting mistreatment of our animals, and on this point, judge, the evidence is clear: These dogs were kept and/or trained by Carl Steward for the purpose of dog fighting.”
Steward faces up to 18 months in prison on each count when he is sentenced on Nov. 20.