Man faces trial on charge of selling pit bull puppy for dogfighting
An Ypsilanti Township man will stand trial on charges that he sold a pit bull puppy to an undercover officer for her to use in dogfights.
Gayland Tomlin is charged with two counts of offering to buy or sell an animal for fighting and two counts of possessing any device or equipment intended for use in the fighting of an animal. Tomlin is facing a maximum of four years in prison and/or a $50,000 fine.
During testimony in a preliminary exam on Thursday, Cruelty Investigator Elise Ramsey, of the Humane Society of Huron Valley, said she began Facebook messaging with Tomlin under a different name on Jan. 24. A couple of weeks later, on Feb. 7, Ramsey went to Tomlin’s home in the 1300 block of Nash Avenue and purchased a pit bull puppy.
Ramsey said she and an undercover deputy from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office went to the home and Tomlin showed her the dog and its sibling. The dog seemed shy when Ramsey first observed it and she asked Tomlin if he was sure it would fight. To demonstrate its toughness, Tomlin took the two puppies out to the driveway of the home and had them fight, Ramsey said.
The dog cowered behind Ramsey twice, but she said Tomlin assured her the dog would be a fighter.
“He said, ‘He just needs some confidence, he hasn’t had a good life up until now,’” she said.
The dog’s sibling, named Japan, bit the puppy a few times before the fight was stopped, Ramsey said. Tomlin told Ramsey during previous conversations the dog’s mother was a top-notch fighter, calling her “dead game.”
Ramsey said dead game is a term meant to describe a dog that will fight to the death no matter what injuries it sustains.
Investigators served a search warrant at the home on Feb. 8 and seized Japan, the mother and an American bulldog that had been chained up behind the house. Ramsey testified a treadmill and a “break stick,” a stick used to pry a dog’s jaws off of another dog at the end of a fight, were found at the house.
The puppy’s mother and the American bulldog were both so aggressive when authorities seized them that they were euthanized, Ramsey said. The two pit bull puppies have since been given new homes through adoption.
Washtenaw County Assistant Public Defender Lorne Brown argued during the exam Ramsey had been the one implying that the dog would be used for fighting, not Tomlin. Brown said Tomlin was like a salesman telling a potential customer what she wanted to hear. He said Tomlin was looking to sell the puppy and Ramsey had supplied the intent to use it for fighting.
Brown said there was enough evidence on many of the counts to send the case toward trial. The only evidence Washtenaw County Assistant Prosecutor Amy Reiser gave to show the mother pit bull and bulldog were used for fighting were Tomlin’s statements on Facebook, and that wasn’t enough, Brown said.
“They have to show some evidence to show the court what was going on other than his words,” he said.
District Judge J. Cedric Simpson agreed with Brown that the evidence did not show the bulldog had been used for fighting and dismissed one count of possessing an animal used for fighting.
Simpson weighed the fact that the treadmill could have been meant for the home’s residents and the stick — found with what appeared to be dried blood on it and chewed up ends — may have just been a toy for the dogs. However, he sent the charges of possessing those items on to trial court because he believed there was probable cause they had been used to commit a crime. But, a different outcome may arise at trial.
“That’s a factual issue that should be raised before a jury or judge at circuit court,” he said.
Tomlin will be in front of Washtenaw County Trial Court Judge Melinda Morris at 1:30 p.m. June 18. He is not currently lodged at the Washtenaw County Jail and has pleaded not guilty to all charges.