Orange County, NC - After nearly two years and one major scandal, Orange County finally passed an anti-tethering law. Pit bull breeders have substantial pull in the county. Tom Garner, a well-known breeder of pit bulls, who was convicted of dogfighting in 1985, lives in area. As you can see from his property, Garner will now have to cease chaining his pit bulls.
When Orange County created a citizens' committee to study an anti-tethering ordinance, a woman named Alane Koki applied to become a member. She submitted a 13-page resume citing numerous accomplishments as a scientist and medical researcher: a doctorate in zoology, a dozen patents, and publication in more than 50 journals. Koki seemed a fine appointee for the seat designated for an "animal wellness/health expert." She was placed on the panel on February 6th, 2007.
Breeders of pit bulls oppose anti-tethering laws and all laws designed to regulate pit bulls. One might think that "good" breeders would endorse mandatory spay/neuter laws to stop backyard breeding, but they do not.
What Koki failed to list in her application was her long history of breeding pit bulls in other states and her association with local kennel owner Tom Garner, whom commissioners declined to appoint to the committee the same night they approved Koki. As details emerged about Koki's background, however, officials worried that her membership on the committee was an attempt to scuttle any potential limitations on tethering -- a common practice used by breeders and trainers of fighting dogs.
Orange County Commissioner Mike Nelson said, "There's so much money in dogfighting, now that I look back with 20/20 hindsight, I shouldn't be surprised that the dogfighting lobby would go to lengths like this -- they have a lot to lose." Web sites for Tom Garner Kennels and Koki's Thundermaker Bulldogs showed several examples of offspring resulting from breeding their dogs to each other. Garner, however, denied having any business relationship with Koki, including that he ever bred his dogs to hers.
"On archived versions of the Thundermaker Bulldogs Web site, which include a picture of Koki cuddling a dog, descriptions of individual pit bulls detail bloodlines for several generations. For example, one Thundermaker "stud" listed in 2001 named "Goodson's Dozerboy" lists Garner's dog, "Garner's Frisco" as his sire and "Garner's Ch Chinaman" as his grandsire. Asked about those bloodline connections, Garner says he "is unaware of [Koki] having a Web site." The only connection he has with Koki, he says, centers on a study she's conducting about the effects of tethering on dogs."
The scandal also uncovered additional aspects of Koki:
- Koki had been investigated for being involved in breeding dogs for fighting. On July 7, 2006, authorities in Dane County, WI, taped a conversation between Koki and a man named Robert Lowery, a former sheriff's deputy accused of dogfighting and drug trafficking. A transcript of the conversation was introduced as evidence in Lowery's trial.
- Pennsylvania officials had been investigating Koki for nearly a year, after discovering about 50 pit bulls on her property in Mohrsville, PA, according to Harry Brown, responsible for animal control in the county. Koki did not have the license required to keep more than 26 dogs, and several months into the investigation, most of her dogs were removed.
- It was also unclear whether Koki actually lived in Orange County (a requirement for serving on the study committee). She listed a home phone in Pennsylvania on her resume and she was not registered to vote in North Carolina, though she offered a street address of 215 Ashe St. in Hillsborough, a house in a run-down neighborhood surrounded by a privacy fence.
Koki resigned from the committee after Ashley B. Roberts of the Orange County Independent Weekly exposed her.
11/16/08: Massive Dogfighting Sting in Harris County, Texas
10/31/08: Coverage of the Fulton County Animal Shelter - DogsBite.org