She calls herself "the pit bull grandma," and she's on a one-woman campaign to ferret out dogfighters in the Charleston area.
Janet Frisco, who lives near Summerville, has been putting up posters asking people to report dogfighting. She got them from the Humane Society of the United States. The society says dogfighting remains a problem around the country and is offering a $5,000 reward for the arrest and conviction of anyone involved.
Frisco put one of the posters near some railroad tracks off Lincolnville Road, where she found a dead dog around Thanksgiving in 2012. She's convinced that somebody was disposing of a pit bull used to train fighting dogs.
"I've seen them all over the place," said Frisco, who owns two pit bulls herself. "If I hadn't found the previous five, I might have thought it was just a random thing. This is a hidden crime that goes on all the time. All the stolen pets and numerous dead dogs I have found are the tell-tale signs that it exists."
She says one of the dogs had its mouth taped shut, indicating it was used as a bait dog. But that was several years ago and no help to law-enforcement officials now. Concerning the dog on the tracks, Charleston County Animal Control officers said they saw no evidence that it wasn't simply a dead dog.
Aldwin Roman is manager of anti-cruelty and outreach for the Charleston Animal Society. He said Frisco is probably right to be concerned about dogfighting, but officers would need some specific leads to do anything about it.
"It's definitely still a problem," Roman said, "but it's very hard to find and prosecute, because dogfighting has been pushed underground."
The shelter staff sometimes sees wounded animals that appear as if they may have been used as bait dogs, but it's hard to say they weren't hurt in a scrap with another dog, he said.
"That's where it gets difficult to prosecute," he said. "I think she should keep putting up the posters."
The most notorious dogfighting case in the Charleston area occurred when David Ray Tant of Ravenel was arrested in 2004. Nearly 50 dogs that investigators said he was breeding for fights were seized from his property after a land surveyor stumbled on one of his booby traps and was wounded. Tant spent six years in prison and was released on parole in 2010.
When Tant was paroled, the state had a dogfighting task force under the attorney general's office. The task force was disbanded due to lack of funding, a spokeswoman for the attorney general's office said last week.
Frisco says that's why she's been putting up posters, to reignite some concern over the problem.
"It appears there is a tolerance for animal cruelty of this sort," she said. "It's just basically that nothing is being done."
Frisco lives in Dorchester County, and she's been trying to convince the county's animal-control officers to do more about people breeding and selling pit bulls for fighting. She said several pit bulls that escaped in her neighborhood and were rounded up not long ago were being raised for fights.
Dorchester County officials said they would need more evidence to do anything.
"We've not seen any evidence of it," Supervisor Melissa Hopkins said. "We do keep our eyes open. If we saw any evidence of dogfighting, we would call in the sheriff's office."
Frisco has also been talking with the Dorchester County Sheriff's Office, and she said they should be more aggressive.
Chief Deputy Sam Richardson said he would investigate if he had some evidence of a crime.
"We will gladly follow up on any information we receive," he said.
Berkeley County Planning Director Eric Greenway said animal control officers sometimes see things that might indicate dogfighting on a small scale, such as a treadmill for a dog in a back yard. But officers would need more evidence to prosecute somebody, he said.
Reach Dave Munday at 937-5553.
NOTE: This story updates the reward the Humane Society is offering to $5,000.
Janet Frisco usually takes her dogs, Missy and Buster, for walks near the railroads tracks along Lincolnville Road and says she has seen dead dogs left by the tracks. She has put up posters alerting others about dogs being used for fighting near the spot she found the first dead dog. Photo taken Thursday Jan. 23, 2014 near Summerville. Paul Zoeller/Staff×