County responds to animal cruelty case

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 20, 2004

At the end of the Beaver Creek Road just off of Egg and Butter Road in South Shelby County, 64-year-old Betty Lou McDonald buried her face in her vein-pocked hands and sobbed.

She noticed the box on the side of the dirt road on Monday. She noticed it again on Thursday, and it wasn’t until then that she checked to see what it was.

McDonald and her husband, Virgil, a 72-year-old retiree, drive up and down Beaver Creek Road collecting cans. On Thursday, their scavenging turned up something heavier and more disturbing than an empty can, however.

When Betty Lou opened the thick wooden box, devoid of air holes or screens, a skinny brown dog ran out. A second dog flopped onto its back and gasped. Betty Lou guessed it had died a few hours later.

&uot;This is just pure cruelty,&uot; Betty Lou said. &uot;I just wish I would have opened that box before yesterday.&uot;

The dog still lay on its back, halfway outside of the box filled with feces and blood, on Friday afternoon.

Shelby County’s animal control officer, Donald Kendrick, said dog fighting, a popular Shelby County pastime, is probably to blame for the abandoned dogs.

He guessed each dog weighed about half what it should. The brown hair was patchy and stiff from mange, and the dogs’ claws were overgrown to where it was painful to walk.

As Kendrick reassured Betty Lou that the sheriff’s department would investigate the incident, a wild turkey soared into the pines overhead. Kendrick said there’s an abundance of wildlife in this part of the county.

He recounted stories of feral hogs and cows, and he showed horrifying photographs of mangled pit bulls and horses with ribs resembling an accordion diaphragm.

Ironically, the wooden box was well-constructed with three-quarter-inch plywood sides screwed together. McDonald and Kendrick wondered why the same care didn’t go to the dogs’ health.

&uot;They were already sick when they did this to them. They were put here to die,&uot; Kendrick said, standing on a washed-out dirt trail a few feet from the wooden box.

Betty Lou said she takes her two chihuahuas, Misty and Mary, to the vet regularly for shots and checkups. But, she said she has no love for snakes, which were sent by the devil. She said she leaves bread and corn chips outside for the strays around her home on Egg and Butter.

Kendrick, Shelby County’s one-man animal control department, had a slightly different theory that animals are God’s gift to people and that we all have a moral and legal responsibility to take care of them.

Kendrick, who has a 16-year-old mutt named Rascal, doesn’t believe in bad dogs, even the ones used to fight.

&uot;They’re all good dogs,&uot; he said.

Last year, Kendrick rescued 700 dogs. He said animal cruelty and neglect is growing along with the rest of Shelby County.

&uot;I see a lot of this. We’ve got a lot of dog fighting in this county,&uot; Kendrick said. &uot;In this county, they don’t hide it.&uot;

But maybe they should. In Alabama, anyone associated with dog fighting can face an automatic $2,500 fine, and intentional animal cruelty is a felony.

Betty Lou knew what she would do if somebody dropped Misty and Mary off in the middle of nowhere to die.

&uot;I’d be ready to hunt them down. They deserve the same thing,&uot; she said. &uot;I hate to see an animal mistreated. They didn’t deserve to be in that box.&uot;

Betty Lou said she will keep an eye out for people abusing animals.

&uot;How would they like somebody to put them in a box like that?&uot; she said.

Kendrick remains on-call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and he said he receives calls all the time. Over the weekend, after finding the wooden box and the dead hound, Kendrick returned to the piney woods of South Shelby County to search for the one surviving dog.

Finally, on Monday afternoon, the hungry dog wandered out of the woods lining Beaver Creek Road, and Kendrick managed to get a leash on it.

&uot;I had almost given up. All of the sudden, she just popped out of the woods,&uot; he said.

Now, Kendrick said, he hopes to find additional information to prosecute the people responsible. He collected photographs and the wooden box for evidence. The dead dog was sent to Auburn University for a necropsy report to determine the exact cause of death. Daisy, the rescued dog, is also key evidence.

&uot;The people who did this are cowards,&uot; Kendrick said.

Adding to the irony of this story, the Shelby County Animal Shelter, operated along with the Shelby County Humane Society, features room for 300 dogs. The shelter also has a 24-hour drop-off for animals.

&uot;There’s no reason to do this,&uot; Kendrick said on Friday, standing a few feet from the wooden box. &uot;There’s still a lot of folks in this county that think animals are disposable.&uot;

The Shelby County Humane Society is offering a reward for information regarding the incident. Donations to the reward fund may be sent to the Shelby County Humane Society at PO Box 210, Columbiana, AL, 35051, or by calling 669-3916