Marine’s pit bull-breeding kennel draws scrutiny
CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Okinawa and U.S. military officials are investigating a Marine corporal’s off-base pit bull breeding business.
For almost a year, officials at the Okinawan-American Animal Rescue Society say they have urged Cpl. Brian Booth to cease breeding pit bulls from his apartment near Torii Station, in the village of Yomitan. They claim Booth, assigned to the 3rd Marine Logistics Group on Camp Foster, failed to get permission from his command or a business license from the prefecture.
But more than that, society volunteers fear the dogs Booth is selling will one day be abandoned by their American owners.
“Most Americans return after their tours to the States, where owning a pit bull is banned in many communities,” said Shannon Wellin, a volunteer who is leading a campaign to shut down the kennel. “And so they’d abandon the dogs, and there are already too many abandoned dogs on Okinawa.”
Liz Rouse, society founder and president, said she also fears pit bulls left on Okinawa could wind up involved in organized dog fights, which in Japan are legal as long as no gambling is involved.
“Pit bulls are the prime breed for these horrible contests,” Rouse said. She claimed, however, that the reason behind the push to shut down Booth’s Ryukyu Block Head Kennels is not a reaction to the recent headlines surrounding Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick’s pit bull fighting business in Virginia.
“Personally, I have nothing against the breed,” Rouse said. “But we also know that they are at risk for being used for fighting.”
Wellin and Rouse said they have been in e-mail contact with Booth for months and claim he told them that he sold his pups for $1,200 each. They also said they have seen classified ads in local papers with his name on them.
Rouse said she e-mailed Booth advising him pit bulls could be used for illegal purposes and could be hurt.
“He said what happened to the dogs after he sold them was out of his control,” she said.
Rouse said she also advised the Marine that he was violating Japanese laws regarding breeding and a military order restricting business activities by Defense Department personnel and their families.
Booth did not respond to Stars and Stripes’ e-mail requests for an interview or return phone calls. Posted recently on his Web site, http://ryukyukennels.bravehost.com, was a description of Ryukyu Block Head Kennels.
“I believe in producing pits, with large heads, stacked with muscle but that are still lean,” it stated. “… All my dogs are raised around kids and other pits, they may have the drive and ‘gameness’ in there bloodline but they all have excellent temperaments.”
On Sunday night, the site carried this message: “We have no future breedings planned until I return to the states.” The description and information about individual dogs had been removed.
Citing an ongoing investigation, Marine officials would not comment specifically on Booth’s breeding business.
In response to a query concerning personal businesses operated by servicemembers, Marine Corps Bases Japan spokesman 1st Lt. Garron Garn, said “U.S. forces personnel in Japan must file a request for approval with the service component commander or the commander’s designated representative, describing in detail the nature and scope of the proposed activity.”
Garn said it did not matter whether the business was operated from an off-base home.
“The requirements to receive approval for on-base businesses and off-base businesses are the same,” he said.
Rouse and Wellin said they reported the breeding business to Booth’s command Aug. 22. Wellin said the commander called last week to inform her that “they are pursuing a criminal case.”
“We want to note that the Marine Corps has worked with us completely and is trying to put a stop to the illegal breeding that is being done by its servicemembers,” Wellin said.
Military hopes microchip solves stray-dog issue
The U.S. military is trying to deal with an abandoned dog problem on Okinawa by requiring that microchips be embedded in all pets owned by Americans here under the Status of Forces Agreement.
In 2005, the Okinawa Animal Protection Center, the prefecture’s animal shelter, received more than 12,400 stray dogs, euthanizing 11,600.
When a stray animal is found on military property, a check is done to see if it has been microchipped and registered, said Air Force Maj. Daneta Johnson, 18th Wing spokeswoman.
“Once the servicemember is identified, they are charged a $500 abandonment fee, a $250 turn-in fee, and any boarding fees that apply,” she said.
“After contact has been made, a request for a military pay order action is submitted,” she said.
That means pay garnishments for active-duty or retired servicemembers or government civilians, and if they are separated from the military the Treasury Department is notified for garnishment of any future tax refunds, Johnson said.