Monday, June 30, 2008

Dog mauls, kills over 100 chickens and turkeys

MAINE -- When teenagers Michael and Nate Bonzagni went outside to check on their fowl at around 4 p.m. Saturday, they were greeted with a gruesome sight.

A Husky had gotten into the family's poultry pen and killed more than 100 young chickens and turkeys.

"We found the dog jumping over everything, just going over the rest of them that he didn't kill," said Michael Bonzagni, 13. "It was a gray Husky."

The boys immediately called their mother, Amy Tremblay, who was out of the house at the time. "They called me and said, 'There's a dog in the chicken pen, killing the chickens,'" Tremblay said. Her sons caught the dog and hooked it to a run, she said.

The Husky wiped out the family's young flocks of about 105 Rhode Island Red and Cornish Rock chickens, she said.

"It's tragic. They're gone. There's some still alive but they're so badly hurt they aren't going to make it."

They were to be food for the winter, she said. "We're a family of five, and only my husband works."

It's too late now to buy more chicks, Tremblay said. "We got these ones in May."

The family also was raising 20 turkeys for friends and relatives and others who ordered them. In addition, they have two goats, a rabbit and several laying hens - "just a little farmstead to keep ourselves going," Tremblay said.

The baby chickens and turkeys had an indoor-outdoor pen with a 6-foot-high fence. The assumption, Tremblay said, was that the dog jumped the fence.

The Husky, which was young and had a shock collar and a tag, was not dangerous to humans, Animal Control Officer Wendell Strout said Saturday. "I handled him. Everybody there handled him."

The dog probably got excited after scaling the fence, Strout said. "The freakin' birds went nuts," he said. "Once a dog gets in there and the birds start going crazy, the dog starts going crazy, and it just escalates."

[Funny, no mention of how the poor birds suffered. Yes, they're livestock - meant to be eventually killed and eaten - but they do have feelings, people. They feel terror and pain just like you and I do.]

He estimated the dog was in the pen for about an hour. "You'd have to be there for a while to kill that many chickens," Strout said.

Tremblay said the dog didn't eat any of the fowl. "He just mangled them to death. They just have bite marks in them. He just tore right into them."

Strout estimated the damage at around $1,000. The dog's owners will be responsible for damages and will have to pay a fine for letting a dog run at large. "I raise birds, so I know what they cost, new," Strout said. He said the birds were probably between 5 and 8 pounds, ready to be slaughtered.

The dog will be in lockdown, at least until Monday, Strout said.

(Sun Journal - June 29, 2008)

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Toby Breedlove, 40, left dogs to die, police say

GEORGIA -- Animal control authorities say they recently made a gruesome discovery in a Lawrenceville man's backyard, where a dog was so starved it had begun eating its cage mate, a black Labrador puppy.

The animals' owner faces multiple counts of animal cruelty, including an unusual felony charge for aggravated animal cruelty. Police say Toby Breedlove, 40, caged the animals without food at his home on Old Fountain Road. Authorities were alerted to the situation when Breedlove's neighbor reported a dead dog floating in her swimming pool on May 21. The woman claimed the dead dog belonged to Breedlove, and animal control officers went next door to investigate. Officers found three dogs in pens in Breedlove's backyard - one dead and two near starvation, according to a police report. The owner neglected to feed a female black Labrador puppy, which was "left in its pen for days and was partially eaten by its pen mate," another Labrador puppy, according to Breedlove's arrest warrant. The third dog, a separately caged male Westie (West Highland Terrier), was malnourished and infested with insects, the warrant says. Breedlove was arrested Thursday and taken to the Gwinnett County Jail. He posted $28,800 bond and was released Friday. Gwinnett police spokesman Cpl. David Schiralli said the two surviving animals were seized by officers. Breedlove faces a felony count because the Labrador puppy had died, Schiralli said. Breedlove on Friday referred all questions to his Buford-based attorney, Wayne Lancaster. "I haven't seen the police report. I don't know what police are alleging," Lancaster said. "We don't want to comment right now as to anything."

(Gwinnett Daily Post - June 21, 2008)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Devil dog did this to my Chloe

UNITED KINGDOM -- Pretty Chloe Ashman lies lifeless in intensive care after a horrific attack by a breed of dog her dad wants BANNED.

A Staffordshire bull terrier ripped away half of the six-year-old’s throat.

Chloe Ashman following the horrific attack

Chloe is winning her fight for life but may NEVER speak again because of damage to her voicebox.

Her father Lee — who released the shocking snap — said: "The surgeons can’t believe my Chloe is alive.

"The dog clamped down on her neck and tossed her around like a rag doll.

"I want to make people aware of what these dogs can do so this doesn’t happen to anyone else."

Chloe was playing in the garden at home in Folkstone, Kent, with her two-year-old brother Samuel when the pet struck.

Lee, 34 — separated from Chloe’s mum Stacey, 27 — claimed her boyfriend brought the dog into the house after its owners gave it away following an earlier attack.

Stacey denied this.

The mum needed stitches in her hand after trying to force the dog off.

She said: "Samuel handed me a drill so I started hitting the dog with the drill. I was able to get my hand in his mouth but he just bit down again.

"My neighbour jumped over the fence and got the dog off. He is the hero."

The dog was put down. Chloe is stable after three life-saving operations at St Thomas’ Hospital in South London.

Four breeds of dog are banned under the Dangerous Dogs Act — but they do not include Staffs despite a string of recent attacks.

A girl of five was mauled in Thurnscoe, South Yorks, a seven-year-old girl was badly hurt in Poplar, East London, and a tot almost lost her an eye in Bournemouth.

(Sun UK - June 19, 2008)

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

New Jersey: Mitchell Eng charged with animal cruelty

NEW JERSEY -- Mitchell Scott Eng was booked in Bergen County, NJ. Unable to locate any additional information. 

Sex: M
Height: 5′ 7″ (1.70 m)
Weight: 155 lb (70 kg)
Hair Color: BLACK
Hair Length: N/A
Eye Color: BROWN
Complexion: OLIVE
DOB: 8/31/1972
Marital Status: SINGLE
State ID: 839654C
FBI: 878809XB4
Citizen: United States of America
COB: United States of America
Booking Number: D-66897
Permanent ID: D-66897
Current Location: MAIN
Current Housing Section: N/A
Current Housing Block: N/A
Current Housing Cell: N/A
Current Housing Bed: N/A
Commitment Date: 6/10/2008
Release Date: 9/02/2008
Alias Information: N/A
Detainer Information: N/A
Bond Information: N/A

Date of offense: 06/10/2008

Date of offense: 06/10/2008

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Montana: Thirty Three Sled Dogs Pay the Price for a John Hessert’s Misguided Dream

MONTANA -- Breaking trail through snow that topped nearby fence posts, Roger “Rodeo” Vincent n a West Yellowstone concrete contractor and sled dog musher n trudged toward the sound of barking dogs. The dogs’ owner, a musher named John T. Hessert, had been seen leaving town in a fully-loaded truck on Friday, January 25. It was now Wednesday, January 30. After hearing Hessert’s dogs barking that morning, Vincent had received permission from Gallatin County Animal Control Officer Pat Hess to enter a parcel of land west of West Yellowstone to check on them.

When he reached the area where the dogs were staked, he saw no tracks, indicating that they had not been fed or watered in days. The chains used to tether the dogs to drop-lines and fence posts were so short or buried so deep in snow that the dogs could only move a couple of feet. Several dogs were chained to trees and one was roaming free. Only 17 of the 33 dogs had any means of shelter.

“Dogs absolutely need to get out of the wind,” Vincent explained. “It had gotten down to 20 or 30 below recently, and the wind had been blowing pretty good. Huskies burn a lot of calories just trying to stay warm. Unless they have plenty of water and good food, they get dehydrated.”

Hessert, who had reportedly been at the Wyoming Stage Stop dog sled race, arrived on Wednesday afternoon and encountered a sheriff’s deputy. Instructed to feed and water his dogs, Hessert returned with a bin containing dog food soaked in water. Vincent later commented, “The food he showed up with, I wouldn’t feed to a pet dog. Even a low-rent musher would’ve taken better care of his dogs.”

Based on observations made by Animal Control, a warrant was issued and the dogs were seized on February 1. Forest Service officers and sheriff’s deputies shuttled dog crates on snowmobiles to a waiting trailer. Rob Greger, a Bozeman-based musher called in to assist with the rescue, hooked two of his lead dogs to a sled to bring several of the dogs out.

Sue Geske, head veterinarian of the Race to the Sky and a member of the International Sled Dog Veterinary Medical Association, determined that the dogs were seriously underweight, even for the lean, athletic Alaskan Husky breed. Some of the dogs were suffering from frostbite. The youngest dog had a collar deeply embedded in its neck. Within days of the seizure, eight pups were born, bringing the total to 41.

The dogs were transported to a county barn where a dozen volunteers cared for them over a five-week period. Volunteers named the dogs based on physical or behavioral characteristics. Blue had one blue eye and one brown eye. Pacino had a scar on his face. Buster would wrap his paws around volunteers as if greeting a long-lost friend. Yodel serenaded the pack with elaborate whine-songs. Shake-N-Bake would stomp her legs and shake at the sight of food.

When Seeley Lake musher Rob Loveman learned of the dogs’ plight, he donated 800 pounds of top-shelf dog food that he had intended to use in the Iditarod before withdrawing to undergo knee surgery. By week five, the dogs had regained enough strength to be transferred to locations where they could satisfy their innate desire for exercise. Pat Hess and Cara Greger recruited experienced Montana mushers to provide foster care as the case is adjudicated. Hessert was charged with 33 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty and one count of felony aggravated animal cruelty.

Who Is JT Hessert?
John Travis Hessert (aka JT Hessert), 24, developed a passion for sled dog racing while growing up in Maine and set his sights on the hotbed of the sport: Alaska. He reportedly began corresponding with legendary musher Martin Buser at the age of 14 and finally convinced the four-time Iditarod champion to take him on as a dog handler in Alaska in 2004. Hessert worked with Buser’s younger dogs, and he qualified for the 2005 Iditarod by placing second in the Klondike 300. At the age of 21, he finished the 1,161 mile Iditarod in 50th place.

According to several mushers familiar with Hessert, it was when he tried to establish his own racing team that he ran into trouble. Even those who object to Hessert’s treatment of his animals say he is an intelligent man with an encyclopedic knowledge of champion sled dog bloodlines. “He had a solid breeding plan,” said one Alaska-based musher who asked not to be identified. “But common sense seemed to be missing. Before he accumulated 30 dogs, he needed to have the means to support them and support himself.”

By 2006, Hessert was living out of his truck in the Fairbanks area and the vehicle’s cab was perpetually filled with trash. In November, he dislocated his kneecap in a trailer hitch mishap, forcing him to ask mushers he hardly knew to care for his dogs. One of those mushers recalled, “He had no home, he barely had means of transporting his dogs and he had no job. I knew these dogs would be in a bad situation if they didn’t get help.”

Another Fairbanks musher, who asked not to be named because he fears reprisal from Hessert, said, “He’s very bright and manipulative. He was good at convincing people to stay on their property, but he always wore out his welcome and had to leave. He used and abused people.”

He also claimed that Hessert routinely refused to provide his dogs with shelters, even when they were available.

Matthew Ruger, Animal Control Manager for the Fairbanks North Star Borough, said, “I have a dossier on Mr. Hessert that’s two inches thick. We have records of 21 different calls related to him.”

Several complaints involved Hessert staking his dogs on borough property or private property without permission. There were also complaints regarding the physical condition of the dogs as well as how they were staked out n their chains being too short or wrapped around brush. Animal Control was also aware that Hessert would disappear for days without feeding his dogs.

“We observed that his dogs were seriously emaciated,” said Ruger. “We took photographs of them. We could see shoulder bones, hip bones and ribs sticking out. We were concerned they weren’t going to live through the winter.” He added, “At no time in our encounters with Mr. Hessert did we observe that he provided shelter to all his animals. Some of the dogs were digging holes to find shelter.”

Alaska’s animal cruelty and due process laws require that unless an animal is in immediate danger of death a “removal notice” be posted 24 hours prior to seizure. Ruger said they posted several removal notices at various sites. “When we’d roll back out 24-hours later, we’d find warm tire tracks and he’d be gone. We spent a good deal of time chasing him around. The borough is the size of Connecticut, and we have five officers.”

As a result, Hessert’s only animal-related penalty in the Fairbanks area was a citation for failure to properly restrain an animal.

Animal Control officers would leave bags of dog food with the removal notices.

“There’s no sense in letting these dogs suffer if we can prevent that,” Ruger reported.

He also said that Hessert is an anomaly in the sled dog world.

 “Ninety-nine percent of our dealings with mushers are positive. They’re good stewards of their animals.”

Hessert’s lack of planning became evident during the 2007 Yukon Quest race. According to published accounts, Hessert was fined $500 for being late for a mandatory pre-race meeting. He was penalized for not cleaning up at race checkpoints and was fined $250 for not having vaccination records when he arrived in Dawson City. Hessert was involuntarily “withdrawn” by a race official due to his lack of preparation and failure to have a dog handler. An on-site observer was quoted as saying, “Those poor dogs don’t know what they’re getting into.”

Hessert arrived in West Yellowstone in September 2007 without a place to stake his dogs. He eventually leased a parcel of land west of town that bordered National Forest property. Although the leased property had plenty of space, Hessert staked several dogs on neighboring federal land, earning him a Forest Service citation.

Hessert’s trial is scheduled to begin on August 13. He is represented by attorney Chuck Watson. His father Stephen Hessert, a managing partner in a Maine law firm, requested custody of the dogs until the case is decided, a move that was opposed by the County Attorney’s office.

On May 12, Judge Holly Brown granted the request; Stephen Hessert will transport the dogs to Maine. The senior Hessert testified at the hearing that he has been monetarily assisting his son’s mushing efforts, and that he intends to return the dogs to his son if he is acquitted.

John Worsfold, the Deputy County Attorney who was trying the Hessert case, is relocating to California to continue his law career. Worsfold said he was disappointed in the ruling. “The Judge's decision contradicts the clear and well defined intent of the Legislature who wrote the law regarding the return of seized property.”

Candace Hamlin, a volunteer who provided care for Hessert’s dogs at the county barn, fears the case is heading in the wrong direction.

“After everything these dogs have endured at the hands of JT Hessert, the possibility that they might one day be given back to him is unthinkable. That would be the height of injustice.”

Author’s notes:
Neither JT nor Stephen Hessert replied to email and/or telephone requests to provide input for this article. The author was one of the people recruited to care for the seized dogs at the county facility.

(Montana Standard - June 3, 2008)