Spindletop Dog Refuge For Pit Bulls: What Went So Horribly Wrong?

Categories: Cover Story

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For at least twenty years, Spindletop Dog Refuge was known as one of the few places in the country where rescued pit bulls had a second chance for a happy life. But somewhere along the way, Spindletop's owner, Leah Purcell, lost control and the refuge appears to have turned into a place where dogs were warehoused until they died.

It all came to light in mid-July, when Montgomery County authorities and Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) personnel seized 298 dogs from the property in Willis. The HSUS's state director said the dogs were kept in deplorable conditions. In short order, Purcell agreed to relinquish 287 of the dogs, and the HSUS and officials began the massive undertaking of identifying the dogs and returning them to the people who previously fostered them.

Neither Purcell nor Spindletop's attorney, Zandra Anderson, commented for our feature "No Sanctuary at Spindletop," choosing not to offer any mitigating explanations for a truckload of evidence pointing to dreadful mismanagement and deception. Perhaps most odiously, it appears that Anderson arbitrarily chose which people she'd assist in recovering their dogs. The Houston Press's questions about the fates of other dogs fell on deaf ears.

The weird thing is, Anderson apparently had time to send a series of letters to Clarity Digital Group, owner of a network of community news blogs, complaining of an Austin blogger's Spindletop coverage.

Alleging defamation and tortious interference, Anderson accused Cindy Marabito -- a former Spindletop supporter -- of peddling a "hate filled agenda" meant to "garner sentiment against Ms. Purcell and me."

Invoking the Gods of Good Taste, Anderson related the gravity of Marabito's admittedly purple prose and questionable sourcing to the Denver-based company like this: "As you well know from the recent events in your great state of Colorado, all it takes is one unbalanced individual to wreak havoc."

We fully expect to receive a similarly scolding missive by offering the following: Anderson's letters, and her behavior toward some of the people aching to find dogs they had promised a better life, suggest a belief shared with Purcell: Pride and reputation above all else -- even dogs.

You can read why we came to this conclusion in this week's cover story, "No Sanctuary at Spindletop.".

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