G-D is mentioned...
Late last week, Pima County Animal Care officials were busy removing animals from a Picture Rocks property, the scene of what law enforcement authorities believe to be the epicenter of an extensive fight-dog breeding operation.
Pima County Sheriff’s deputies raided the property, and three others, last Tuesday. The busts netted a man whom authorities say was one of the most renowned breeders of fighting dogs in the country.
Mahlon Patrick, 63, who lives at the property in the 12000 block of West Orange Grove Road, was arrested on suspicion of cruelty to animals and dog fighting.
Police found 115 dogs in kennels at the property, including three litters of puppies.
“We have reason to believe that we have 30 to 40 generations of fighting dogs here,” said Sgt. Terry Parish with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department. Parish, who heads the department’s community problems unit, is also an Oro Valley Town Council member.
The scene at Patrick’s compound the day after the raid remained grim, as investigators catalogued scores of caged animals. Many of the dogs showed the signs of fighting, according to investigators.
Some dogs taken off the property also displayed angular limb deformation in their front legs, the result of generations of inbreeding, said Karter Neal, a Humane Society of Southern Arizona veterinarian aiding with the rescue effort.
Before the dogs were removed, county and Humane Society staff performed physical examinations as trucks lined up to take the animals to undisclosed Pima County Animal Care facilities.
The pit bulls, with reputations for fearlessness and ferocity, appeared hapless and terrified as animal care officials coaxed them from kennels laden with urine and feces.
“They seemed very starved for attention,” said Marsh Meyers, director of community outreach for the Humane Society. “They’re not being socialized like normal companion dogs.”
Investigators also unearthed at least three separate animal gravesites on the four-acre property.
The corpses of six dogs, most of them young, were found buried on Patrick’s compound, Parish said.
The presence of gravesites at the operation didn’t surprise Meyers, who said many in the dog fighting community live by the code “breed the best, bury the rest.”
Other animals were also recovered from the scene, including 30 chickens, two geese, 55 koi fish and two goats.
Patrick and Emily Dennis, who lived on the property, agreed to let the Humane Society take custody of the animals, said Amy Eades, the group’s president.
The pair, released without bond, showed up at the property last Wednesday afternoon to pick up an automobile and clothing. Police barred Patrick from entering the compound, but Dennis was escorted to her trailer by a sheriff’s deputy.
Calls to Patrick at a number found on his Web site, www.bolio.net
, went unanswered.
Scores of investigators spent much of last Wednesday, a day after the raid, sifting through mounds of evidence scattered across the property, a maze of dog kennels, dilapidated trailers and sheds.
Corrugated steel separated dog cages in five locations.
Police also found in barn a large freezer filled with bags of frozen milk. Parish thinks the bags contained dog’s milk stockpiled to feed puppies produced at the kennel.
Because of the aggressive nature of the dogs, the result of selective breeding aimed at producing fight-worthy animals, it might have been necessary to hand-feed the puppies as a way to protect them from their mothers, Parish suggested.
Law enforcement and Humane Society investigators believe Patrick has bred and cultivated at least two highly sought bloodlines of fighting dogs called Bolio and Tombstone.
“Some of the dogs from these lines were showing up in Latin America and Europe,” Meyers said.
Reviews of pit bull-related Web sites and discussion boards indicated that Patrick, known as “Pat” Patrick in pit bull breeding circles, is a near celebrity of the subculture.
In 2001, Patrick received a lifetime award for breeding achievement from the American Dog Breeders Association, a group that produces publications and a Web site devoted to pit bulls.
Dozens of postings from one online forum called game-dog.com praised Patrick’s dogs.
“Pat Patrick is the man who dedicated his life to breeding dogs … off Indian Bolio and thus creating this magnificent strain,” boasted one poster.
On Patrick’s Web site, a message board boasts of dogs’ bloodlines and advertises puppies available for sale.
Bloodlines dominate the conversations on such forums. Several Web sites and periodicals dedicated to pit bulls also show fixations with bloodlines.
The raid at Patrick’s property was part of a larger law enforcement action that included two separate breeding operations. Police arrested six people in all whom they believe to have connections with dog breeding and fighting.
Juan and Zenaida Verdin, a married couple and associates of Patrick, are suspected of running the fight-training portion of the enterprise, Parish said. The two were also released without bond.
Also arrested were Robert C. Smith and Terry Williams. Police suspect the two of managing a similar fight-dog breeding trade — with a twist.
The pair also runs a Web site called All American Dog Registry, a space dedicated to pit bulls. The site registers pit bulls and sanctions sporting events, such as weight pulls, for the breed. Critics of the site say it’s merely a networking place for the dog fighting subculture.
“All American Dog Registry is a registry created by dog fighters for dog fighters,” Meyers said.
Williams declined comment on his arrest when contacted last week by The Explorer, instead referring all questions to his lawyer, Roberta Jensen.
“I’m outraged that the press has been crucifying these people,” Jensen said. “My clients are innocent until proven guilty.”
The attorney also represents Robert Smith. Both men were released without bond.
Jensen said Smith is a known throughout the world as a dog show judge and expert on American Staffordshire terriers.
Jensen also expressed concerns about the Humane Society’s involvement with the investigation.
“I’m concerned about who Mr. (John) Goodwin is,” Jensen said.
Goodwin, an animal cruelty expert with the Humane Society, has been extensively quoted in relation to this and other suspected dog fighting cases. On many pit-bull centric Web sites and message boards, Goodwin is the focus of scorn. Postings on some sites accuse him of being an animal rights extremist.
According to the Human Society’s Meyers, Pima County is home to some of the biggest players in the world of fighting dogs.
“We do know that southern Arizona has been a hotbed of breeding,” Meyers said.
In fact, according to local Humane Society spokeswoman Jenny Rose, authorities here considered Pima County the country’s No. 1 exporter of fighting dogs.
Pit bull breeding can be a lucrative trade. Meyers estimates that Patrick and other breeders can sell fighting dogs for as much as $10,000 each.
Authorities said Patrick has been in the breeding business since at least the late-1960s.
Last week’s raids netted 150 dogs. Pima County Animal Care Center will house 56 of the dogs, the others will be held with co-operating outside agencies, said Vicki Duraine with Pima County Animal Care.
At least 28 dogs were given over to the Humane Society, which will hold the animals pending the outcome of the investigation.
The challenge facing Pima County Animal Care isn’t in keeping such a large number of dogs, but the fact that the animals will have to be held in segregation for extended periods.
“Some of the dogs are completely isolated,” Duraine said.
Because authorities believe the dogs have been bred and raised solely for fighting, kennels normally intended for multiple animals will hold just one dog, Duraine said.
The dogs are currently considered evidence in a criminal prosecution, which means the county and other agencies will keep the animals until the case reaches final resolution.
“That’s the sad nature of these kinds of crimes,” Eades said. “Normally, you can take the victims and lavish them with better treatment.”
But the dogs will have access to medical care and facilities far more sanitary than the ones they were taken from, Eades said.
The air around Patrick’s compound was heavy last week with the stench of animal waste. Investigators had to cover the ground between two rows of kennels with scrap metal and wood because a stream of raw sewage had filled the passageway.
In addition to the dogs taken from Patrick’s property, Parish said steroids and a cache of weapons were found.
Parish said the sheriff’s department suspects Patrick might have also been trading dogs for guns.
“Often we see people involved in dog fighting rings are involved in other criminal activities,” Meyers said.
With a bust as large as the one last week, however, authorities think the disruption will ripple through the dog-fighting arena.
The case has also attracted the attention of law enforcement authorities from outside agencies, Parish said.
The Pima County Sheriff’s Department has been in contact with U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco Firearms and Explosives, and the FBI.
“I don’t think we will end (dog fighting),” Meyers said, “but we put a big dent in it.”