PENNSYLVANIA -- The X-ray shows her left rear femur snapped in half, and authorities say the injured pit bull was left to writhe in agony for weeks before a tip led to her rescue over the weekend.
On Thursday, Lance Marcell Bell Sr., 30, and his live-in girlfriend, Joie Jacqueline Gommer, 29, of the 100 block of Chester Pike in Collingdale, were charged with animal cruelty and related offenses.
The charges against the couple include two counts of first-degree misdemeanor cruelty to animals, two counts of second-degree misdemeanor criminal conspiracy to engage in cruelty to animals, and six counts of summary cruelty to animals.
The pair will be notified by mail to appear in district court, Collingdale Police Chief Robert Adams said. Preliminary hearings are listed for Feb. 28 before Magisterial District Judge Gregory J. Loftus, according to online court records.
A joint investigation by Collingdale Police Officer Patrick Crozier and Justice Rescue, a local animal-advocacy group, began after Collingdale police received a phone call late Saturday reporting allegations of abuse involving the year-old dog – renamed Dolores or “Dolly” by her rescuers.
“Dolly for short,” said Justice Rescue Human Officer Russ “Wolf” Harper.
According to Harper, the dog was mutilated, tortured and neglected. Her injuries were so severe, her left rear leg had to be amputated, he said. Surgery was performed Wednesday.
“She will remain with me throughout her recovery,” Harper said Thursday night. Recovery will include rehabilitation, both physical and psychological.
At 19 pounds, he said the dog is about 30 pounds underweight.
“She’s scared but she’s not shown any bit of aggression. She just wants you to love and pet her,” he said.
When she’s shown attention, Harper said, “she gets excited and cries.”
According to the affidavit of probable cause supporting charges against the couple, it was shortly after 11:30 p.m. Jan. 14 that Collingdale police were notified about the alleged abuse. A woman provided an address and said a dog there was being punished and starved.
“The dog’s skeleton could be seen,” the caller told police.
The woman said she’d already called animal agencies in both Delaware County and Philadelphia, only to reach answering machines saying to call 911 in the event of an emergency.
Officer Crozier told the woman he would forward her name and number to the Brandywine SPCA, only to be told that she should call during normal business hours. During the phone conversation, Crozier could hear the woman’s voice breaking up, trying to contain herself from crying.
She identified the owners of the dog as Bell and Gommer.
Within 20 minutes of the phone call, Crozier contacted Harper.
“Wow, what a night,” Harper posted on the Justice Rescue Facebook page shortly after 10 a.m. on Jan. 15.
“One poor little pup in emergency, starved, abused, beat badly and locked away in a dungeon,” he wrote.” She is in urgent care. She will need surgery from what she suffered in abuse. Let’s all pray for her and hope for this pain to go away soon.”
At that point, Harper didn’t say where or who, or provide any other details.
“But local police officers were rock stars tonight,” he wrote.
According to the affidavit, Crozier met Harper at Collingdale police headquarters about 1:50 a.m. on Jan. 15. Together, they went to the couple’s Chester Pike residence. Lance Bell answered the front door in a pair of shorts. Before stepping outside to talk to the officers, he asked if he could get dressed.
The officers were permitted to enter the residence, and they followed Bell to the living room area, according to the affidavit. The officers watched as a small pit bull that greeted them at the door roamed about the residence.
The dog was emaciated and she was only using three legs, refusing to put any weight on her left rear leg, the affidavit states.
The officers then told Bell the reason for their visit and started to question him about the dog.
According to the affidavit, Bell said he could not afford to take the dog to the vet for shots. He also said he thought the dog might have worms, explaining why she was so thin. He also said the dog had been limping for about two weeks.
When the officers asked if anyone else was at home, Bell said his wife was asleep. The officers asked him to wake her up, which he did.
Gommer agreed to speak with the officers, the affidavit states. She also showed them where the dog stayed for the majority of the day. She escorted the officers to the rear door, and then opened it.
“There was a small enclosed porch with numerous piles of dog feces on the floor. There was pieces of the interior walls missing with sharp points where the paneling had been broken, nails sticking out of the wall studs and a metal bowl with approximately 2 inches of water in the bottom and a dead mouse floating in the water,” states the affidavit, written by Crozier.
Harper then informed the couple that charges would be filed against them. He also requested that they turn the dog over to him if they could not afford to provide the dog with immediate veterinary attention. The couple turned the dog over to Harper, signing all the necessary forms, the affidavit states.
The dog was taken to VSEC Animal Hospital in Philadelphia, where blood was drawn and the X-ray on her left rear leg showed the broken femur.
Harper met again with the couple about 7 p.m. Sunday. Bell and Gommer arrived voluntarily at Collingdale police headquarters, the affidavit states.
During that interview, Gommer said Bell got the dog about two months prior. According to the affidavit, she told Harper that she witnessed Bell hit the dog 15 to 20 times for urinating and defecating in the house.
“After Lance would hit the dog a few times, she would request him to stop and he would be very angry,” the affidavit states. If Bell had been drinking, she said he would hit the dog even harder, the affidavit states.
Gommer said she noticed that the dog had been limping for about a week. She questioned Bell about it but never got a “clear” answer, the affidavit states.
She also said Bell would punish the dog by putting her on the back porch, sometimes for hours.
During his separate interview, Bell told Harper that when he first got the dog, she was well behaved. But when they went to work and the dog urinated and defecated in the house, he reportedly said he beat the dog to correct her.
“Sometimes he would beat the dog with his hands and other times he would use a stick,” the affidavit states.
It was after he hit the dog with a stick that she started to limp, Bell said, according to the affidavit.
“Dolores was severely beaten over and over in her young life. It’s been reported that Dolores was beaten over 50 times and she shows the physical marks of the abuse she suffered,” Harper posted in an update Wednesday afternoon on Facebook.
“Dolores was kept in a room resembling a dungeon … without heat or food, and the only thing in her water bowl was a dead mouse. She was forced to lay in her own feces and urine for a very long time. Not only was Dolores beaten and abused mercilessly, she received no vet care even after they broke her leg, and she was writhing in pain for several weeks. Can you imagine the depravity of anyone doing this?
“Her life matters. There was no way we were leaving Dolores behind.”
In seeking justice, Harper asked his legion of followers, “Pray for conviction.”
Misdemeanor and summary offenses are punishable by fine and or jail time, according to Adams.
Anyone who would like to contribute to Dolores’ care, visit http://justice-rescue.com/donate.html.
(Delco Times - Jan 20, 2017)