Man gets 3 years for operating dog fights

12 pit bulls, wooden pen found in raid on home in Lochearn last year

June 28, 2000|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

A Lochearn man was sentenced in Baltimore County Circuit Court yesterday to three years in prison for running dog fights -- with an enclosed pen and a scale for weighing dogs -- that attracted about 100 people.

Willie Watson, 44, was sentenced to the maximum term possible by Judge Thomas J. Bollinger after police called to Watson's home last year found a dozen pit bull terriers that were either bloodied from fighting or about to fight.

Watson also was fined $3,000.

Adam Lippe, an assistant state's attorney, said neighbors called police to Watson's home in the 4000 block of Buckingham Road about 9:45 p.m. on March 20, 1999.

Lippe said that about 100 people were at Watson's home when police arrived and that dozens fled into some nearby woods, many with dogs.

He said police found a wooden pen Watson had built for the fights in his two-car garage, a scale for weighing dogs in his back yard and a manual on how to train dogs to fight.

Police confiscated a dozen pit bulls, Lippe said. Many of them had ears ripped off or faces cut from fighting, he said.

He said the fights had been videotaped, but the tape was erased before officers could confiscate it.

"The people who do this say it's like auto racing, they consider it part of their manhood," Lippe said. "But this is a crime that touches everybody, or certainly anybody who cares about dogs."

Watson was one of nine defendants convicted under state animal cruelty statutes that prohibit both fighting dogs and attending dog fights.

The other defendants were convicted during the past year and sentenced to jail terms ranging from 12 days to 18 months. They also were issued fines of as much as $3,000.

Watson, who owned the house and six of the 12 dogs that were confiscated, was the operation's ringleader, Lippe said.

"He'd open the door for the people who showed up, and tell them where to sit," he said.

Lippe said Watson trained the dogs to fight by using sticks and heavy chains. He also had a treadmill set up in his back yard for running the dogs, Lippe said.

Police took the dogs to Baltimore County's' animal shelter on Manor Road, where they were treated for their wounds and kept for about year.

But, Lippe said, all 12 dogs had, to be destroyed early this year because they continued to lunge at smaller animals that came near their cages. He said the dogs' training--not their nature -- made them aggressive.

"Pit bulls are just like any other dogs: They have to be trained to be violent," he said.

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