Authorities rescue 46 Pit Bulls from Michigan dog-fighting ring

Two alleged dog-fighting kingpins are behind bars and 46 Pit Bull Terriers are now safe after a raid on two Kalamazoo, Mich., properties.

Some of the dogs were fitted with heavy logging chains. (Photo credit: Humane Society of the United States)

The investigation was coordinated by the Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement agency and the Humane Society of the United States.

A tip from a local hunter led authorities to a house on KL Avenue in Kalamazoo, where they discovered 32 dogs chained in the backyard. The Pit Bulls, many covered in wounds and scars consistent with dog fighting, were recovered last Friday. A dog-fighting ring and other fighting paraphernalia were discovered in the basement of the home.

“There was actually large amounts of blood to even be able to see visually,” HSUS manager of animal fighting investigations Chris Schindler told Wood TV News 8 following the Friday raid. When the investigators sprayed the basement with forensic agent BLUESTAR, even more blood was visible, just one indicator of the brutality suffered by the seized dogs. “We were able to see that there were massive amounts of blood,” Schindler said.

The remaining 14 Pit Bulls were found at a second location Monday, chained outside of another Kalamazoo home on Darling Avenue. A fighting ring and blood spatter were discovered in the home as well.

Two men have been taken into custody following the raid. Kelvin E. Thomas, who lives in the home on KL Avenue, is charged with four dog-fighting related felonies and two felony weapons charges. This is not the first time that Thomas has been arrested for fighting dogs; he served a year in jail for attending a dogfight in Kalamazoo County in 1992.

The second suspect, Leonard Turner III, is connected with the Darling Avenue location.

Authorities revealed Monday that the investigation against the dog fighting ring stems from an earlier case, when two other men were arrested and charged in similar circumstances. Samuel Steel and Travis Fields were taken into custody after 18 Pit Bull Terriers were recovered from their Kalamazoo properties in November 2011.

According to MLive.com, while authorities conducted their investigation in November, the names of other men involved in the larger fighting operation were discovered among the collected evidence — including the names Kelvin E. Thomas and Leonard Turner III.

“All the same names started popping up in the evidence,” Kalamazoo County Animal Services and Enforcement Director Steve Lawrence said. “It was a big break when we hit those houses in November and that really opened the door for these others.”

The HSUS will provide housing and care for the seized dogs for the next two months, seeing to their rehabilitation so that hopefully the dogs will be able to find new homes. Because any dogs involved in fighting cannot be adopted out in the state of Michigan by law, the dogs will have to be adopted out elsewhere.

Lawrence says that the outcome would not have been possible without the HSUS investigators and volunteers. “Probably, if we didn’t have their assistance, we would put down all of the dogs,” Lawrence explained. “They know what they’re doing,” he said of the HSUS, “they made this so much easier with taking care of these animals.”

Sources: MLive.com, Examiner.com, WoodTV.com, HumaneSociety.org