Fifth suspect behind bars as Michigan dogfighting probe continues

Fifth suspect behind bars as Michigan dogfighting probe continues
One of seven dogs seized from a Kalamazoo home.

A 28-year-old Kalamazoo man was taken into custody Tuesday after police raided his Dwight Avenue home and removed seven pit bulls who were allegedly being used for fighting.

Although the unidentified man was initially arrested on an outstanding warrant, Kalamazoo County Animal Services is asking that the owner of the animals be charged with multiple dogfighting related offenses.

The raid was part of an ongoing probe that began in November 2011 when 18 pit bulls were seized from Kalamazoo properties belonging to Sam Steel, 43, and Travis Fields, 42. Investigators were able to determine that at least one of the dogs from Tuesday's seizure was the offspring of a champion fighting dog belonging to Steel.

This marks the fifth arrest in connection with what authorities believe to be a large-scale dogfighting ring. Kelvin Thomas and Leonard Turner, both of whom have connections to Steel and Fields, were arrested two weeks ago on animal fighting charges. In total, 46 dogs were removed from the men's custody. Sam Steel, who had fled the area shortly after his 2011 arrest, was picked up Aug. 6 after the FBI used a trail of frozen dog sperm to uncover his location.

View slideshow: Michigan dogfighting bust results in 46 dogs seized, 2 men behind bars

Steel was arraigned Monday on charges including animal cruelty and homicide stemming from the April 2011 murder of Milo Conklin. He was denied bond and scheduled for a preliminary hearing Aug. 30. Travis Fields pleaded guilty to possession of equipment used for the training of fighting dogs and is set to be sentenced Sept. 4. Kelvin Thomas and Leonard Turner remain behind bars on a slew of animal fighting charges.

View slideshow: Suspects arrested in connection with Kalamazoo dogfighting ring

The Kalamazoo County Prosecutor's Office is currently reviewing the evidence submitted in connection with Tuesday's arrest. Several of the seven pit bulls seized are said to have scarring indicating that they may have been fought before. The dogs were transported to a temporary shelter where they are currently being examined by a veterinarian.

Steve Lawrence, director of Kalamazoo County Animal Services, has stated that the investigation is continuing and more arrests are possible.

“We do have other names,” says Lawrence.

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