Investigation Finds No Animal Cruelty
The investigation, conducted by Animal Control Officer Charles Craven, wrapped up July 12 with Craven stating in his report that there was "insufficient evidence" of "any substantial violation of state or county animal cruelty codes."
The report indicates that the female dog and her puppies, who were four weeks old at the time of the incident, were kept in an enclosure with food and water.
Some local animal rights advocates disagreed with the findings.
Craven's report, based on interviews with the owner, the police and the veterinarian who treated the dog, says that the owner checked on his pets the evening of July 3 before going to bed. The next morning at 10 a.m., the owner found his dog lying on his dirt driveway.
The dog "appeared to be sick, lying on the ground whimpering," Craven wrote in his report. The owner told Craven he had been brought up around animals and felt certain his dog was dying. The owner, who is not identified because he has not been charged with a crime, did not want to talk about the matter.
According to Craven's report, the owner told Craven that the dog would sometimes "jump the fence and run around the neighborhood, but no one ever complained about the dog as it was well-loved," the report says.
The owner told Craven he felt that the dog had been poisoned unintentionally, that perhaps someone had targeted some pit bull terriers in the neighborhood and got his dog instead. Craven confirmed that Animal Control has investigated the pit bulls and owners in question on other occasions.
"We know they've been having some problems with some pit bull dogs that live out there, and the community was complaining," he said over the phone. "So the main thing is that somebody could have set some poison out for those dogs, and his dog got it."
In the report, Craven wrote that the owner saw an Aberdeen police car drive by and flagged it down.
The responding officer wrote in her police report that the owner asked her "to shoot the dog because he could not and did not have the finances to take it to the veterinarian. ... The dog seemed to be in bad condition, and the owner thought the dog ate some type of poison. (The owner) also stated the dog had four puppies a month ago, which he had stored in a pen in the backyard. The puppies seemed to be okay."
The police officer instead called Moore County Animal Control and was advised that the County cannot pick up sick owned dogs, advising the police to contact the Small Animal Emergency Services clinic. The Clinic then gave the officer the number for Animal Advocates of Moore County.
Maureen Horansky from Animal Advocates came and picked up the dog and its four puppies to take to Dr. Ann Turner, the Clinic's veterinarian.
Horansky said the sick dog did not have any water and had dragged itself from the sand driveway onto the grass.
"She was breathing very heavily," Horanksy said. "She had all this sand in her mouth from where she had dragged herself over the driveway."
Horanksy described the dog as "covered in ticks, huge engorged ticks," which Turner noted in her report.
Horanksy and Laura Duffy, an Animal Advocate board member, wrapped the dog in a blanket to take to the Clinic and took the puppies. Horansky states that the first of the puppies she picked up "screamed at the top of its lungs." According to her, the owner told her the puppies had not been handled. Dr. Turner noted in her report, and Horansky said as well, that the puppies were healthy.
According to Craven's report, the owner said he could not take care of the puppies and asked if anyone could take them. Craven wrote in his report that the owner "seemed genuinely upset at the loss of his dog and stated that she had been his only companion since his wife's death in 2002."
In a phone interview, Craven reiterated the sense of loss he perceived from the owner.
"He was very hurt with what happened," Craven said. "He just knew the dog wasn't going to survive, and that's the reason he asked the Aberdeen police to put the dog down."
The dog was admitted to the Emergency Clinic about 90 minutes after the owner discovered her, at 11:30 a.m. Turner treated the sick dog. Her report mentions the dog suffered from mastitis, had low calcium levels, was emaciated and was covered in ticks. In spite of Turner's efforts, the dog died about 4:15 p.m., according to the report.
Craven spoke with Turner July 12, and in his report he wrote, "Dr. Turner advised that the dog had succumbed to renal failure, which could have been caused by several factors, among which is the poisoning that (the owner) suggested. Dr. Turner also advised that she could not prove that (the owner) had done anything cruel to cause the death of the dog. Dr. Turner stated the puppies were healthy."
According to Horansky, Turner said it was "absolutely" a case of "neglect" but never used the word "cruelty." Despite Craven's findings, Horansky believes the case was an example of cruelty but that no one involved is willing to treat it as such.
"It's just people trying to not get involved," she said. "I'm not trying to hurt this man, but this goes on all the time here. Nobody ever goes to court."
Craven said he could not rule out the possibility suggested by the owner that the dog had been poisoned.
"In talking with Dr. Turner, that could be a great cause of renal failure," Craven said. "Renal failure, she said, is caused by many things, and that's still not because someone neglected or was cruel to the animal."
Al Carter, director of Moore County Animal Control, said Craven's recommendation has been accepted.
"We have taken Officer Craven's recommendation," Carter said, "and do not feel we have substantial grounds to put charges forward.
"I found the whole circumstance to be very unfortunate," he said.
Craven used the same words to describe the dog's death.
"I love all animals, and I just hate that this happened," Craven said. "But it's just a bad, unfortunate accident to have happened."
Kirsten Beattie is an intern from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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