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Shelby County to destroy 23 pit bulls allegedly trained for dog fighting

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SHELBYVILLE — The Shelby County Animal Control office has euthanized more than 300 dogs since the beginning of the year.

Almost two dozen more will be put down today, following a hearing Monday regarding an alleged dog fighting operation.

“You hate to do this but it’s got to be done,” Animal Control Officer George Donley said after the hearing at the Shelby County Courthouse.

The 23 pit bull terriers rescued Aug. 19 from the property of Matthew R. Dalton, 34, will be destroyed this morning by a veterinarian after Dalton failed to pay almost $3,000 for the care of the dogs and a judge Monday turned their fate over to animal control officers, who have already ruled out the possibility of adoption.

Donley said the concern is not so much for people as other pets. “These dogs would not harm a person,” he said.

However, if any of the pit bulls were to come in contact with another dog, “The other dog’s not going to be hurt — it’s going to be dead,” said Donley.

He said he even contacted the Humane Society of the United States office in Chicago about placing the dogs with any of various pit bull associations, but officials said this would only be an option for puppies. All of the seized pit bulls are adults.

“We tried,” said Donley.

Dalton faces 15 counts of dog fighting and animal cruelty, as well as a felony drug charge.

Shelby County State’s Attorney Allan Lolie said authorities raided Dalton’s property in rural Stewardson after a sheriff’s deputy observed some of the dogs while attempting to serve civil court papers.

Lolie said investigators discovered the scarred and malnourished pit bulls, alleged dog fighting equipment and more than 11 pounds of cannabis. Dalton was arrested without incident after returning home that afternoon.

Donley said a dog fighting arena and several exercise treadmills were among the items found during the execution of the search warrant at Dalton’s property.

The defendant previously posted bail and was released, although he was ordered to submit $2,976.20 for the expense of keeping the dogs at the Shelby County Animal Shelter for one month.

On Monday, during Dalton’s first court appearance with his attorney, Thomas Lech of Collinsville, Judge Kimberly Koester said these fees were never paid. “The animals are thereby forfeited (to) the Shelby County Animal Shelter (to) dispose of the animals either through adoption or euthanization,” said Koester.

Dalton has not yet entered a plea to any of the charges, although he may do so at his preliminary hearing slated for Sept. 29.

Even though the Shelby County Animal Control office has euthanized 306 dogs so far in 2008, more than 200 have been adopted, Donley reported Monday.

“But you hate to see 23 dogs” destroyed, he said. “It’s the only thing that can be done.”

Contact Nathaniel West at nwest@jg-tc.com or 238-6860.

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LaSalle County Coroner Rich Ploch said the office received the results Wednesday, but he declined to comment on the report’s content “due to the ongoing investigation.”

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