Follow Up: Stolen CO Dog Dragged to Death

You may remember the case of Buddy, a dog stolen from the owner’s pickup truck in a CO parking lot and ultimately dragged behind a truck to his death in a national park.

Melissa Lockhart, the woman who stole Buddy and his canine housemate, pleaded guilty in May to “one count of being an accessory after the fact to the crime of aggravated animal cruelty”.  The US Attorney’s Office has a page up detailing the many lies Ms. Lockhart told investigators in the course of trying to cover up her crime.  It’s an unsettling thought to imagine this person raising children.  Sentencing is scheduled for September 17, 2010:

As a result of Lockhart’s guilty plea, she faces not more than 18 months in federal prison.

Ms. Lockhart’s brother, Steven Romero, is the person who actually killed Buddy.  He too lied to everyone involved in the case in an effort to cover up or at least lessen the appearance of his crime.  The judge did not go for it and gave him the maximum sentence possible:  three years in prison.

Mr. Romero has 11 felony convictions on his rap sheet.  So perhaps he’s quite accustomed to delivering fake-sorry remarks in court, I don’t know.  But this statement from him bothered me:

“Your honor and the people of the state of Colorado, I’m sorry for what happened. I’m sorry it happened, but I can’t bring the dog back. At the time, I wasn’t thinking.”

You know what dirtbag – killing Buddy is not something that “happened”.  Tornadoes happen.  Spilled milk happens.  With Buddy, you loaded him in the back of your pickup, drove to the CO National Monument, unloaded him, tied a rope around his neck, tied the rope to your truck, got back in your truck and drove up hill, dragging Buddy until his guts were so torn up they filled his belly with blood and he died.  You say you weren’t thinking and perhaps that’s true but when specifically did you mean – during the load up, while driving to the park, during the unload, while tying the rope around Buddy’s neck… when exactly were you not thinking?  Cos even if we grant your lying ass the benefit of the doubt and concede that you weren’t thinking, there had to be some point in there when you were thinking.  And whenever that was, and whatever you may have been thinking at the time, makes my skin crawl.

In tribute to Buddy’s memory, I will include a portion of the article containing some words from Buddy’s owner, Mrs. Sacha Leber:

The family adopted Buddy from the Delta County Humane Society five years before his death.

In the years that followed, Buddy became a playmate for the Lebers’ three children — Isaac, Owen and Alyssa.

“Buddy was the most kind, gentle, respectful dog, especially with our children,” Leber said.

Thank you to reader Clarice for sending me the link about Mr. Romero’s sentencing.

Update on Boost and Walker Co Humane Society

A Boxer named Boost was turned in to the Walker County Humane Society (WCHS) in AL by good Samaritans after he got loose in May 2009.  He was friendly and obviously someone’s pet but the shelter director killed him immediately (it was close to 5 o’clock) and lied about the incident afterward.  The owner filed a lawsuit against the shelter and per the attorney, Brett Wadsworth, the suit is currently being amended to include Walker County on the grounds that the county failed to properly fund the shelter in accordance with state law.

The goal of the lawsuit is to bring about major reforms to the shelter.  The attorney has stated publicly that any money he receives from this suit will be donated to a reformed Walker Co shelter.

The WCHS director, Lane Reno, is still on the job and presumably still killing pets and lying about it.  She recently spoke to a local paper about the shelter:

“Unfortunately, we have to put some animals down, because we simply don’t have room.”

Ms. Reno defines “some” for us:

“We have about 5,000 to 7,000 animals dropped off to us every year, with maybe 200 of those being adopted,” Reno said.

Maybe 200 adopted.  Out of roughly 6000 pets.

OK let me stop here and say that I do appreciate the many challenges faced by underfunded shelters in the South.  That is not lost on me.  I don’t expect anyone to work magic.  Lack of sufficient funding is a major obstacle.  I get it.

But.

If you are in charge of caring for the community’s pets, I expect you to take all reasonable actions to save as many pets in your shelter as possible.  This includes aggressive public education and outreach, reuniting lost pets with owners, TNR for feral cats and an adoption program that colors outside the lines.  I don’t expect you’ll be able to save all your pets right away, but you should be able to increase your save rate by implementing successful programs from the No Kill Equation, just as other communities have done.  Aim for the 90% or better save rate that other open admission shelters have achieved.

Specifically excluded from my expectations of a shelter director is killing friendly pets because you don’t feel like setting up another kennel close to quitting time and then lying about it when confronted by the media.

Needless to say, if your adoption rate is 3%, and you’ve been caught lying about why you “need” to kill pets, ur doin’ it rong.

But Ms. Reno believes her shelter has “done enough”:

The WCHS believes that it does enough in the county to have gained the public’s support in donating so that it can remain operational.

“We offer many services such as a Pet Therapy program, where we go to all the nursing and retirement homes in the county — and a couple in Winston County when we can — with a pet,” Reno said. “We also have a cruelty/neglect officer that deals with the 400 to 500 cruelty complaints that come in every year. We even have a 24-hour emergency pager service for cases where a stray animal gets injured.”

The WCHS is also always willing to visit schools and summer programs to teach lessons such as how one should protect him or herself if a dangerous animal should approach.

How about teaching lessons on how to protect your pets from danger should they fall into the hands of Ms. Reno and the WCHS?  Or is that basically a hopeless situation?  I guess you could always pray your pet is among the lucky 3% who don’t end up getting wheeled out the shelter’s back door just moments after being “rescued”.

Perhaps most troubling of all, I don’t see one thing in Ms. Reno’s explanation of how her shelter has “done enough” that has to do with saving pets.  It’s nice that they visit nursing homes to offer pet therapy but then, statistically speaking, they apparently drive back to the shelter and kill the therapy pet!

Seriously, would you give money to a shelter that adopts out 3% of the pets they take in, lies about killing people’s pets and then tells the local paper they think they’ve done enough to earn your donation?

An Open Letter to Snopes

I frequently use Snopes and love the site for its usefulness in fact checking various e-mail forwards, rumors and myths.  They even have a section devoted to animals.  But one item I don’t see on their site are the facts on debunking the myth of pet overpopulation.  As such, I sent them the following letter via their contact form:

Dear Snopes,

Please consider investigating the issue of  so-called pet overpopulation and the killing of friendly pets in U.S. animal shelters.  I don’t see an entry on this subject in the “Critters” section of your website.  I often see this issue cited in all forms of media and it would be useful to have a Snopes entry with the facts.

I first learned the truth about “pet overpopulation” when I read a book by Nathan Winograd called Redemption.  The crux of the issue to my mind is simple math.  Mr. Winograd has a website and he lays out the math in clear terms here:  http://www.nathanwinograd.com/?p=1390 .  In short, this math demonstrates that there are enough homes for every savable pet in shelters in the United States and as such, there is no need to kill any of these pets.

I hope you will look into this issue using your resources and come up with an entry for your site based upon your findings.  It is an extremely important issue to the many pet lovers in this country and of course, more so to the millions of voiceless pets needlessly killed in shelters every year.  Please help make the true facts of this issue available to everyone who relies on your website to verify and debunk information they come across on the web and elsewhere.

Thank you,

Shirley Thistlethwaite

***

If you would like to write to Snopes about this issue yourself, please do so and feel free to copy this letter if you’d like.  I’m hopeful they will investigate the facts about the myth of pet overpopulation and include an entry on their website soon.

Follow Up: Miami Police Officer Trial

Sgt. Allen Cockfield, who reportedly strung his police dog Duke up by a choke chain and kicked him to death, was acquitted by a jury today.  He had faced a felony charge of killing a police dog as well as an animal cruelty misdemeanor.  The judge tossed out the felony charge – something to do with a failure to prove intent.  The jury only considered the cruelty charge and returned a not guilty verdict.

Mr. Cockfield’s lawyer described Duke’s death as a “freak training accident”.  There is definitely a freak involved here but there is no accident.

lame.

This makes me want to pull my hair out, punch someone, and burst into tears simultaneously.

How dare any of Houston’s kill shelters kill one single pet after this?!

How.

Dare.

They?

Memphis: The Hits Just Keep on Comin’

Memphis has a lot of problems when it comes to caring for the community’s pets.  The city still hasn’t brought the 3 indicted shelter employees to trial on charges of animal cruelty stemming from last year.  In fact 2 of those 3 are still on the payroll, last I heard.

The city’s ACOs are 800 calls behind – and have been for many months.  The shelter is short staffed.  And there was a proposal this year to inflict a mandatory spay-neuter ordinance on the city’s pet owners which the shelter director failed to speak out against.

After a recent tragedy in which a man died after being bitten by a pair of roaming dogs, Memphis is looking to up the ante in its scramble to the top of teh stupid pile:

The Wharton Administration is considering a measure that would put a bounty of as much as $50 on stray dogs turned in by citizens.

City leaders are hoping it will get vicious strays off the street and encourage pet owners to be more responsible.

Right.  The end results will be vicious dogs off the streets and pet owners becoming more responsible.  Not crackheads stealing pets in the night to turn in for a 50 dollar payoff.  Not an AC unit, already severely compromised, sinking under the weight of citizen stray surrenders.  Not more shelter killings, at a shelter which already needlessly kills thousands of pets a year.  Nope, it’ll be that magical Pet Owner Responsibility dust raining over Memphis that will be the end result here.

The Unwashed Masses Strike Back – Part 1

I’m sure you are all familiar with the evil public:  Irresponsible pet owners who refuse to neuter their pets and callously force kindly shelter workers to spend their work days killing friendly pets.  You know – those people, a.k.a. all of us.

It is the public’s fault that bad things happen to shelter pets.  Which is why it was so shocking to come across these recent stories of members of the public responding to a need in our communities.  Clearly, these are aberrations:

  • A lady in CA who, upon hearing of the increase in surrenders at shelters which serve communities impacted by the BP oil spill, mailed six cans of cat food to a LA shelter.
  • A woman in NC who saw a story on her local news about an area shelter running low on pet food.  She packed up her car with every bag of food she could squeeze in there and drove to the shelter to donate.
  • A pet food salesman in NC who couldn’t stand to see so much perfectly good pet food wasted simply due to things like torn bags or expiration dates while rescue groups and individuals struggled to feed their pets.  He started a non-profit group to keep that pet food from going to waste – and now he has plans to go national.

These are stories of the public responding to pets in need of food.  Surely the wretched public wouldn’t help shelter pets in other ways – would they?  Stay tuned for Part 2.

Horse Vets are Like, Scary Smart

Although you may be bored of hearing details of white collar crimes, this story should interest even the most jaded news hounds.  David Brooks, former CEO of a body armor company, is on trial for stock fraud, insider trading and using company funds to pay for lavish personal items such as cosmetic surgery for his wife, prostitutes for his staff, and a $100,000 belt buckle.  At least some of this money was yours.  That is, Mr. Brooks’ body armor company had military contracts and so taxpayer money was used to buy body armor from him for troops overseas as well as local police.

But of course, if you are cooking the books at your company, you have to find some way to deal with the money men – the people in charge of making sure your books are straight.  Specifically of concern to Mr. Brooks was his CFO, Dawn Schlegel.

[Lightbulb Moment!]

So Mr. Brooks came up with an ingenious idea:  Get the vet who looks after his racehorses to invent a memory erasing pill!  Said pill could then be slipped into Ms. Schlegel’s drink and voila – she knows nuffink about any funny math on the company books.  An excellent and foolproof plan with only one drawback:  There is no such thing as a memory erasing pill.

And so Mr. Brooks sat and listened this year as Ms. Schlegel, her memory apparently intact and keen, spent 23 days testifying against him[…]

D’oh!

I wish I could afford a stable of racehorses and a vet to take care of them.  I’d tell that vet to invent a pill that could make me immune to government control by such evil things as bar codes and the census.

Treats on the Internets

A NJ woman brought a homeless mama cat and kittens to a shelter but after the mama cat tested positive for FIV, the shelter decided to kill all of them.  The lady said she’d take the family back but the shelter refused.  She then contacted Pets Alive in NY for help.  They also offered to take the cats but again, the shelter refused.

Don’t dumbasses have anything better to do in SC than vandalize the local cat shelter?

NV man allegedly running an internet scam targeting owners of lost pets

NY dog alerts family to burning home, saving their lives.  Sadly, the dog didn’t make it out.  (Thanks Susan.)

Article in USA TodayWhy pets are good for us

AKC voices concerns about the PUPS bill currently in Congress

If you’re a food wonk like me, you’ve probably noticed that HSUS is again pushing its vegan-ish dog food called “Humane Choice”.  Seems like a good time to revisit Mary Straus’ review of the product.  (Via Humane Watch)

Study done by Stanford University suggests high yield farming is better for the planet in some ways

Floridians:  Don’t forget to keep your muntjac on a leash – it’s the law.

Miami-Dade Police Dog Handler on Trial

In June 2006, a group of Miami-Dade police k-9 handlers were having a training session with their dogs.  Sgt. Allen Cockfield, an experienced handler, was participating with his new dog Duke.  During that training session, Mr. Cockfield kicked Duke to death in front of the other officers.  He has since been fired by the department.

A year long investigation followed the killing and in 2007, Mr. Cockfield was charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty and a felony count of killing a police dog.  The trial opened this week and the case is being prosecuted by Miami-Dade prosecutor Isis Perez:

Perez told jurors that Duke was not obeying commands. Enraged, Cockfield picked the dog up by the leash, leaving the canine hanging from his choke collar, she said.

That’s when Cockfield delivered three to five kicks, all witnessed by a slew of fellow officers, she said.

Miami-Dade K-9 Officer Andy Giordani, testifying first, held up a black leash and chain collar to mimic what he saw, booting the wooden jury box with loud, fierce thumps.

As Cockfield let Duke slip to the ground, Giordani looked away briefly, then looked back when he heard “a moan.”

“He stiffened his hind legs, shaking as he was going into some sort of seizure, and a few seconds later he became numb, and that was it,” Giordani said of Duke.

The defense paints a different picture – that Mr. Cockfield felt threatened by Duke and was trying to save himself.  And that the kicks were “soft” because, as the attorney points out:

“How much leverage can you have when you’re holding a 70-pound dog?”

My interpretation of the defense’s version of events is that Mr. Cockfield strung Duke up by the neck and then, while the slip chain choked him, softly kicked him until he died.

For the record, if you ever feel threatened by a dog while you are in a group of police k-9 handlers, you can consider your life “saved” once you’ve got the dog strung up.  Surely your fellow officers will quickly intervene to prevent the dog from killing you.  No need to kick the dog to death – softly or otherwise.

Not that I’m inclined to believe the defense, mind you.  But I’m not on the jury.  The trial is set to resume today.

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