Seven dogs were seized by authorities on Tuesday, and charges of animal cruelty laid against a 32-year-old Kent Bridge man in connection with an ongoing investigation into an alleged dog fighting operation in the Chatham-Kent area.
On Wednesday, Chatham-Kent Police, who are probing the dog fighting operation alongside the Ontario SPCA Major Case Management Team, said Tuesday’s arrest was the fifth made in the joint investigation, which dates back to October.
Investigators have charged the man, identified as Robert Tomlin, 32, of Kent Bridge, with Cruelty to Animals – causing unnecessary pain, suffering or injury to an animal, and Cruelty to Animals – encourages, aids or assists in the fighting or baiting of animals.
Two search warrants, authorized under the Dog Owner’s Liability Act, were executed at two Kent Bridge-area residences on Tuesday, police said. Seven “pitbull type dogs” were seized from the properties, police said. They are now being housed in a location outside of Chatham-Kent.
Tomlin has been released with conditions pending a future Mar. 22 court date, police said.
Tuesday’s arrest comes nearly five months after police laid hundreds of charges against three people after 31 “pitbull type dogs” were seized from a residence on Morris Line in the township of East Tilbury.
Along with the dogs, a number of firearms were located at the property, as was evidence that the dogs were being trained to fight each other, police said.
The three accused, identified as Kim Robert, 39, John Robert, 43, and Michael Gagnon, 41, were charged with several animal cruelty-related offences and firearm-related offences. Police at the time said all three lived at the same Morris Line address.
A fourth person, identified as John Robert Jr., 21, of Morris Line in Tilbury Township, was arrested by police in early November 2015 in connection to the case, but was not charged with any specific animal cruelty offenses. He faces several firearm related offences and a drug-related offence.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
According to court documents, some of the more than 200 items seized from the Morris Line property included anabolic steroids, medical kits with injectable solutions and vitamin supplements, and syringes and surgical tools.
“All of the dogs were tethered to large metal chains which were attached to metal stakes in the ground” and “positioned so they were unable to reach one another,” the documents say.
Three of the dogs seized from the Morris Line property have since been euthanized, while an application to euthanize 21 of the dogs has been submitted by the OSPCA to a Chatham court.
The OSPCA has not said why they are requesting to put the dogs down. According to Brad Dewar, spokesman for the OSPCA, the request was made after speaking with veterinarians and industry experts who are involved with animals used for fighting.
A date to hear the application in court will be set on Mar. 10. An online petition against the application has garnered over 60,000 signatures.
According to the OSPCA, all of the dogs seized were said to be “prohibited pitbulls under the Dog Owners’ Liability Act.”
Jennifer Bluhm, a senior inspector with the OSPCA, said each of the seven dogs seized on Tuesday will be “assessed individually” as is typical with any investigation.
“The Society will be working with experts in animal behaviour that specialize in dog fighting dogs to ensure the needs identified by the experts are addressed for each of these dogs,” said Bluhm in a statement Wednesday.
Over 300 charges have been laid against the five accused under the Criminal Code of Canada, Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and the Dog Owner’s Liability Act, police said.