HIGHLY organised criminals including bikies are using pit bulls as weapons amid claims of an illegal importation racket in Australia. At least 100 staffies are allowed into the country each year on little more than a promise they're not pit bulls. Police sources say many pit bulls in Victoria are unregistered and owned by criminals. "They use them like weapons," one source said. "Council rangers won't get close to them." An associate of the Bandidos bikie gang is known to keep one. Criminal sources in Victoria have told the Herald Sun of an international importation scheme whereby pit bulls are brought to Australia from the US. The dogs are described by importers on official Customs papers as staffordshire terriers, whose physical characteristics strongly resemble pit bulls. The dogs are believed to originate from a pit bull breeder in the Pennsylvania town of Reading. They are promoted online and typically enter Australia through Western Australia, where they are bred and distributed, often to criminal elements, around the country. Customs figures show WA is a key entry point for staffordshire terriers. Last year, 29 of the 102 staffies brought into the country arrived in WA, compared with 16 in Victoria, 15 in Queensland and 31 in NSW. So far this year, 19 dogs have entered Australia through WA - more than any other state. Customs officers require a signed declaration from a vet and from those importing dogs attesting to the breed. The agency was unable to say whether it had ever stopped a pit bull at the nation's borders. The racket exploits confusion over how pit bulls are identified. Revelations of the hardcore criminal aspect of pit bull ownership will test the effectiveness of the Victorian Government's crackdown on dangerous dogs. The Government has set up a dangerous dog hotline, increased penalties and enhanced powers for council dog catchers following the fatal attack by a pit bull cross on St Albans girl Ayen Chol. A 27-year-old man required plastic surgery after a staffordshire terrier mauled him in Berwick this week.