Please click an image to view that portion of the interview.
Toledo, OH - In a powerful four-part videotaped interview by WTOL, former Lucas County Dog Warden and expert witness Tom Skeldon opens up for the first time about the "Yellow" Toledo Blade, whose painfully biased reporting all but forced his resignation last November; the recent municipal court ruling that halted enforcement of Toledo and Ohio state pit bull laws in the City of Toledo1 and the repercussions this ruling will have on the safety of constituents.
Never before has the 30-year old pit bull problem been summed up so quickly and distinctly as in this WTOL interview.
DogsBite.org has provided a summary of each interview clip below. Outside of the litigious history of Denver's pit bull ban -- which Colorado courts consistently uphold -- no other city except Toledo has endured a similar history. Pit bull advocates declared both regions "BSL battle grounds" back in the 1990's. As demonstrated by recent events in Denver and Toledo, this battle continues today. In many ways, this interview with Tom Skeldon is the history of BSL in the U.S.
Interview part 1 | 10:00 minutes
During the first segment, Skeldon reflects upon his many years in public service, the Toledo Blade witch-hunt, which all but forced his resignation, and the outstanding effectiveness of his tenure as the Lucas County Dog Warden. Unlike the vast majority of U.S. animal control agencies, Skeldon's department never had to dip into the taxpayer base for funding. His department wholly operated on county dog owners being compliant in paying their dog licensing fees.2
This segment also addresses the political forces, which submitted to the Blade's pressures, instead of standing up for Skeldon and his department's outstanding record. Skeldon cites that the most "disappointing" aspect of the Blade's witch-hunt wasn't even the Blade itself, but that not one elected official stood up in protest of the Blade's biased reporting. Skeldon's superiors also forbade him from having contact with his own media sources, thus silencing Skeldon's story.
Interview part 2 | 9:58 minutes
During segment two, Skeldon explains the "straw that broke the camel's back" concerning the Blade and Commissioner Ben Konop. According to Skeldon, the young grandstanding commissioner has a history of beating up devoted county employees during public meetings. About a year-and-a-half ago, Skeldon was told that he was Konop's next target. Skeldon was also told by his political superiors to "rollover" to Konop -- to not defend himself and his department.
Skeldon, however, did not "rollover" during the public meeting. Skeldon told WTOL, "For 45 minutes Konop was throwing hardballs and for 45 minutes I kept knocking home runs with his hardballs." After the meeting, Skeldon's superiors instructed him to cease contact with the media, whereby halting his communication to the public, including sharing reports of children being mauled. Skeldon said that from that point forward, his department became a "punching bag."
Skeldon also explains in this segment why he believes Konop went after him. Essentially, Konop had many zealous pro-pit bull groups "in his ear" along with the Blade -- the primary newspaper in Toledo -- pushing the pro-pit bull agenda. Skeldon talks about the national pro-pit bull lobby too and how he helped jurisdictions in Denver and Ontario, who were facing this lobby in legal battles, by providing education and expert testimony to them about the pit bull problem.
Lastly, Skeldon talks about the recent municipal court ruling in the City of Toledo by Judge Goulding that voids Toledo and Ohio state pit bull laws in the City of Toledo. Despite two Ohio State Supreme court rulings that declare these laws constitutional, Goulding (whose campaign slogan is "Keep Our City Safer") has now made it impossible for the dog warden and police authorites to effectively enforce vicious dog laws in the City of Toledo. Skeldon tells WTOL:
"When the weather breaks in April, your next-door neighbor can have as many pit bulls as he wants. Your next-door neighbor wouldn't have to have a muzzle on the pit bulls when he takes them off the property. Your next-door neighbor wouldn't have to have the pit bulls in a locked, fenced yard, and your next-door neighbor wouldn't have to have any insurance on those pit bulls.
"We investigate the serious dog bites for the health department. The second breed most involved in dog bites last year were Labrador retriever and Labrador retriever mixes. There were 35 serious dog bites. The third was German shepherds. There were 28. There were 81 serious dog bites by pit bulls."
Please understand that this ratio of serious pit bull bites existed with strong pit bull regulations in place. These restrictions include the State of Ohio pit bull laws and the City of Toledo pit bull laws, which limit the ownership of pit bulls to one per household and require pit bulls to be muzzled when off property. Goulding's questionable ruling, which voids these laws, means that serious pit bull maulings in the City of Toledo will take a drastic swing upward.
Interview part 3 | 3:34 minutes
During segment three, Skeldon talks about the history of Ohio state pit bull laws, which were enacted in 1987 and prior to his tenure as dog warden, and why he was targeted by pro-pit bull groups. He said that since the pit bull lobby has been unable to overturn state laws, they "shot the messenger." In this segment, Skeldon also tackles the outdated motto, "It's the owner not the breed," employed by pro-pit bull groups that ignores the genetic traits of the breed.3
"(The owners) are a factor," Skeldon said.
"If these pit bulls are going to be made vicious by an owner, shame on that owner and they should be taken to task for it.
But it is hard to tell which of those dogs are going to act that way because that is what they are bred to do. The vast majority of pit bulls that have maimed, disfigured or killed someone in the past 25, 30 years have had no history that they can find of being trained for fighting or of biting someone before."
"So out of the blue?" asked the reporter.
"Boom!" Skeldon replied. "If they are triggered."
This explanation refers back to the unpredictability of a pit bull attack that Skeldon discusses at the end of segment two. When explaining the inherent danger of the breed, Skeldon describes the lack of warning signals pit bulls display prior to an attack versus other dog breeds that offer clear physical and verbal warning signs. For instance, pit bulls often do not bark, growl or offer a direct stare prior to an attack. This information is well documented by humane groups.
Interview part 4 | 7:21 minutes
In segment four, Skeldon discusses pit bull puppies, the issue over which the Blade demonized Skeldon, calling him a "puppy killer." Skeldon's department, as well as most Ohio counties, adhere to a "No Adopt Out" pit bull policy as the state prima facially deems the pit bull breed "vicious." Skeldon also notes that nearly all U.S. insurance companies refuse to cover pit bulls, so there is "no deep pocket to put these kids back together again" after a serious mauling.
In terms of what to do with future pit bull puppies, Skeldon talks about how the recent municipal ruling will affect Lucas County residents. During Skeldon's tenure, and while pit bull regulations were enforced, his department had turned the corner on the pit bull problem. The number of pit bulls impounded was decreasing. This is a huge triumph as few other U.S. animal control agencies can report similar results. Skeldon adds about the ruling:
"If these laws aren't going to be enforced, because the courts have tied the police and dog warden's hands, then those numbers are going to come right through the ceiling. And the pit bulls will be out in the front yard instead of the back. They'll be in the alley instead of the garage. They won't be housed in the basement out of sight. They'll be flaunted. And they will be used for people to intimidate their neighbors and to control neighborhoods4 in the City of Toledo."
Lastly, Skeldon recounts the ending of his career after serving as the dog warden for over 22 years. Prior to this, he served in the Peace Corp and military. "If you look at the career, I've been obviously blessed," he said. "In the past year-and-a-half, they were knocking the snot out of me and it was uncalled for." Skeldon said that wherever you've got a "strong media form of government,"5 you end up with people in office who will succumb to this kind of pressure.
Toledo, Ohio v. Paul Tellings - United States Supreme Court
Toledo, Ohio v. Paul Tellings - Ohio State Supreme Court
The State of Ohio vs. Anderson - Ohio State Supreme Court
2In most U.S. cities, dog licensing compliance is under 25% due to poor management. An excellent example was seen last year in Los Angeles under the leadership of Ed Boks.
3No person in the world has been asked to explain this outdated and false motto more times than Tom Skeldon. Note the expression on his face after the reporter poses the question.
4DogsBite.org receives numerous complaints from U.S. citizens who feel that their world has substantially "shrunk" due to nearby pit bull owners. They can no longer walk or jog down their usual paths, nor can they take their own dog on a walk out of fear of being attacked.
5The Yellow Toledo Blade.
11/21/09: The Resignation of Lucas County Dog Warden Tom Skeldon
08/25/09: The History of the Denver Pit Bull Ban and the Victims that Prompted New Law
08/24/09: 2009 U.S. Shelter Data: Pit Bulls Account for 58% of Dogs Euthanized
06/15/09: Canada Supreme Court Upholds Ontario's Pit Bull Ban: Rules Ban is Constitutional
12/16/08: Tom Skeldon Named Dog Warden of the Year 2008
The Ohio Supreme Court just ruled that dog bite victims may seek punitive damages. The taxpayers of Toledo are about to be bitten when an adopted out legally vicious animal attacks somone.
New York City paid out a $5 Million settlement to a Pit Bull maulking victim a few years ago.
Good Luck Tom! Thank you for your service to Lucas County. It was a safer place because of you.
When a Judge, in this case this corrupt Goulding, works for the DOG FIGHTING INDUSTRY, there's a problem.
And Toledo is going to suffer from that problem as now the blood will flow from pit bull attacks.
Goulding needs to be held PERSONALLY accountable for each and every pit bull attack, and for the dog fighting that will now escalate in the city.
This is the DOG FIGHTING INDUSTRY behind Goulding.
First thing in Toledo is that now EVERYONE who has a pit bull will be sitting on a ticking legal bomb, waiting for the lawsuits to explode. And they will.
The City will be getting sued, breeders will be getting sued, landlords who allow pit bulls will be getting sued, and every attack will be a field day for the lawyers.
Every single pit bull incident will be getting close attention.
The "bad rap" for pit bulls will now grow in Toledo, until citizens demand an end to the pit bull insanity.
How stupid these pit bull advocates are.
Poor people in Toledo will suffer from pit bull attacks.
The Judge, out in his safe suburb, will not be affected by pit bulls.
The poor get screwed once again by a crackpot judge, working for dog fighters.
You have to laugh at a joker like Goulding, who is elected I believe.
He has already bragged about addressing a PIT BULL NUT who endangered children with his pit bulls, and that he shouldn't have been allowed out on such low bail.
Even Goulding himself acknowledges that pit bulls are a danger to children!
So parents of Toledo, when your child is killed or mauled, Judge Goulding is the man to blame. He has your child's blood on his hands as he helps the dog fighters.
"Judge Goulding sought and received the counsel and approval of all of the judges on the court to revise this schedule. Amounts to be posted for bond have now been adjusted to account for inflation. More importantly, crimes involving violence to a human alleged victim are excepted from the schedule so that now a judge has to directly set such bonds.
In a recent case before Judge Goulding, a defendant had been freed on $50 bond in a case alleging that a number of children had been left alone and unattended in the vicinity of a loaded shotgun and numerous pit bulls. The defendant, charged with Child Endangering, was able to post bond according to the old schedule, which did not take into account the gravity of the offense and the safety of not only the children involved, but also the community at large.
"In many cases, the old bail schedule was a virtual 'get out of jail free' card. That card has now been revoked," said Judge Goulding. "It is important, especially in victim-driven cases, for a judge to review the matter before bond is arbitrarily set. Such a review protects the victim and the community, and affords the defendant added protection of his constitutional rights," remarked the judge"
I think the judge probably got a "hefty" contribution from the owner of the Toledo Blade, John Robinson Block. It's just a "little too" coincidental about the timing of his ruling and the flat out falsehood of it. It's not just Toledo v. Tellings in this case, Goulding also ruled against The State of Ohio v. Anderson. Supreme courts typically do not like being undermined by "municipal level" (aka podunk) judges.
Every week the Blade publishes a list of dogs "Killed" by The A/C Department. It is overwhelming a list of unregistered Pit Bulls. These people are not paying the fair share for Animal Control costs yet are largest consumers of services and they have the highest number of biters.
Additionally, In Ohio, all breeders are required to be register and collect remit sales tax…Begging the question:
Who is breeding all these Pit Bulls and are they paying taxes?
I think we all know the answer.
It is amazing that they have been able to twist this lack of breed stewardship and law breaking into a humane issue.
Someone at the Blade is making a bundle betting on dogfighting, I bet.
TAKE A BITE OUT OF CRIME…REPORT TOLEDO PIT BREEDERS TO:
Toledo OH Dept Taxation, Attn Enforcement Div One Gov Center Suite 1450, Toledo 43604 419-245-2613
Producing these animals in current form and in such numbers without paying taxes is a crime. Nip it in the bud!!