Dog Rescuers Shocked and Worried after Spindletop Dog Refuge Raid

Categories: Texas

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Bella: just one of many Spindletop dogs whose fate is unknown.

Dog rescuers throughout the country are worrying today over the fates of dogs they placed at the Spindletop Refuge in Willis, where authorities say hundreds of dogs were found living in their own waste in cramped, stacked crates, near a mass grave with an unknown number of bodies.

The 298 dogs seized Tuesday night by Montgomery and Harris county law enforcement, as well as the Humane Society of the United States, are being evaluated at an undisclosed location, HSUS Texas State Director Katie Jarl told local reporters.

Opened by Leah Purcell in 1985, Spindletop earned respect from those in the animal rescue community nationwide, especially for Purcell's work in rehabilitating and placing pit bulls. Spindletop Refuge was listed as a "friend of the court" in the notorious Michael Vick dogfighting scandal in 2007. While Purcell wasn't a part of the proceedings, the court filing stated that she has "been qualified as an expert witness on [pit bulls] in several court cases, and courts nationwide have entrusted the care of seized dogs to Spindletop."

Purcell and her attorney, Zandra Anderson, declined to comment for this story.

An Austin woman named Marisa (she asked us not to use her last name) created a Facebook page earlier today to coordinate efforts among rescue groups and individuals who've boarded dogs for adoption at Spindletop. Marisa said she placed a two-year-old pit at Spindletop about four weeks ago, and saw no signs of neglect or cruelty.

She said she researched Spindletop for weeks before placing Bella, who she fostered for eight months after the dog was rescued from a Los Angeles shelter the day before she was to be euthanized. She said she paid $750 to board Bella.

"I called her a couple times a week and checked on Bella, and I just feel like...all of us that have dropped our dogs or foster animals there were completely fooled," Marisa said. "And I feel like an asshole and an idiot, and I feel horrible -- but I mean, I did the research I could and felt really good about leaving her there. I bragged about it to people because I thought it was such an amazing ranch."

Hundreds of others thought so, too, especially in the wake of hurricanes Rita, Ike and Katrina, when Spindletop was able to take in displaced and forgotten dogs. Purcell issued pleas for donations after Spindletop was damaged in hurricanes and Tropical Storm Allison.

But the refuge also suffered during floods in February and March, according to an Examiner.com report by animal welfare advocate Cindy Marabito. The report includes a statement by Purcell that "We have lost a lot of supplies including food for the animals, equipment to maintain a safe environment for the animals, damages to buildings, and most importantly, we are needing to raise the kennel an additional two feet with a concrete barrier....This is a dire situation and your help is needed immediately!"

The remains of five dogs were pulled from the collective grave on the property, but Jarl told Hair Balls, "We have information that there were many more dogs buried in that same spot." Based on the advanced state of decomposition, it appears the dogs may have been buried for about a month, she said.

As for the living dogs, Jarl said, some were covered in feces, and "the cages were incredibly overcrowded into spaces where the ammonia levels were so high that it almost knocked our investigators right off their feet," Jarl said. "...I went into one of the houses and even with the mask on, I still couldn't breathe."

Many of the cages were shut tight with makeshift accessories like multiple wires bound around the doors, she said. Some of the dogs were covered in feces

"Some of these dogs, when they walked out of the house...acted shocked just to be on grass," Jarl said.

However, Jarl added that volunteers at temporary shelters said the dogs "were doing great [and] were really happy last night when they got there," and were enjoying food and Kong toys donated by PetSmart. (On a side note: How freaking awesome is PetSmart?)

"They were playing and they slept really well," Jarl said, adding that dogs that have been seized due to these types of horrible conditions bounce back "when you just simply give these dogs...some fresh air and some clean water and some food and some love and some time outside."

A hearing has been set for Friday at 10:30 a.m. in Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace's courtroom, 2241 North 1st Street in Conroe. According to the Victims of Spindletop Raid FB page, anyone who has boarded a dog at Spindletop may claim it in there after the hearing -- bring receipts and vaccination records. (Photos would help, too -- anything to make it easier on these officials, who will no doubt have their hands full Friday.)

On another side note: Hair Balls has heard from folks today who were worried that HSUS euthanizes pitties as a policy. Everyone can rest assured that it ain't so.

"The Humane Society of the United States evaluates every single dog that we rescue," Jarl said. "...Our overall goal is most certainly adoption. And I can tell you that many of the dogs that we came across yesterday were really friendly...they were very happy to see us, and we got a few kisses."



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33 comments
anstead
anstead

so sad :(  I need to become an inspector and go out to all the local rescues and make sure they are taking care of these babies. Is there such a position??

pinehurst67
pinehurst67

I would like to know if there is anyway to find where some of these dogs went. There was one in particular that I wold love to give a forever home to. If anyone can help, I would greatly appreciate it!

broomist
broomist

My ONLY "interaction" with Spindletop came in the mid-90s, when, as someone new to pit bull rescue (rescuing my first pit bull and learning about the breed) I commented on on online forum that I could not reconcile someone "in rescue" continuing to breed.  Attacked by "Spindletop backers" who assured me that this Purcell person kicked out one litter a year MAX, saving THOUSANDS even as she did so, I started to do a little research on my own (with the AKC studbooks inthe public library).

 

Guess what?  NO SHORTAGE of Spindletop pups on the market.... check them (the studbooks) out for yourself.  When I put THAT information to the online forum, it was a matter of HOURS before I got what amounted to a threatening "cease and desist" letter from someone claiming to be a legal agent for Spindletop... that my "accusations" were untrue and libelous (and on and on).

 

Well, the studbooks didn't lie, and I'm willing to bet  that what  I was unearthing then was a fair indication that this sort of outcome was "in the works" at LEAST that far back..... what I feel is not "vindication" of any sort, and I have NO desire to put "I told you so" out in anyone's general direction.  I DO feel compelled to say that anyone capable of engineering abuse on this scale deserves no sympathy or respect for what might have been "good intentions".  The DOGS deserve better, and it is in THEIR direction support should be directed.

 

Pitbulls ARE worth saving, the two I've rescued (from less-than-stellar circumstances) have MORE than repaid me in love and loyalty, and proved to me that kindness and intelligent handling CAN end in truly amazing family members.  Those incapable of providing both, should steer clear.  Michael Vick is NOT the only person who should never have had a dog.

broomist
broomist

My ONLY "interaction" with Spindletop came in the mid-90s, when, assomeone new to pit bull rescue (rescuing my first pit bull andlearning about the breed) I commented on on online forum that I couldnot reconcile someone "in rescue" continuing to breed.  Attacked by"Spindletop backers" who assured me that this Purcell person kickedout one litter a year MAX, saving THOUSANDS even as she did so, Istarted to do a little research on my own (with the AKC studbooks inthe public library).

 

Guess what?  NO SHORTAGE of Spindletop pups on the market.... checkthem (the studbooks) out for yourself.  When I put THAT information tothe online forum, it was a matter of HOURS before I got what amountedto a threatening "cease and desist" letter from someone claiming to bea legal agent for Spindletop... that my "accusations" were untrue andlibelous (and on and on).

 

Well, the studbooks didn't lie, and I'm willing to bet  that what Iwas unearthing then was a fair indication that this sort of outcomewas "in the works" at LEAST that far back..... what I feel is not"vindication" of any sort, and I have NO desire to put "I told you so"in anyone's general direction.  I DO feel compelled to say that anyonecapable of engineering abuse on this scale deserves no sympathy orrespect for what might have been "good intentions".  The DOGS deservebetter, and it is in THEIR direction support should be directed.

 

Pitbulls ARE worth saving, the two I've rescued (fromless-than-stellar circumstances) have MORE than repaid me in love andloyalty, and proved to me that kindness and intelligent handling CANend in truly amazing family members.  Those incapable of providingboth, should steer clear.  Michael Vick is NOT the only person who should never have been trusted with dogs.

katlady20
katlady20

What you folks need to do as reporters is find out how hard it is for those who had placed dogs at Spindletop to find out where their dog is or if it is alive.  The "rescue" groups HSUS and Animal Farm Foundation are thwarting the groups at every turn.  Limiting the amount of time to "look at the photo book", allowing only a sneak view of dogs through small openings in the cages, being escorted to the restroom (!), not being allowed to look at every picture of every dog, not posting the pictures online, having to make an appt to look at the photos, not following Incident Command which everyone should know if they are in any type of situation like this, all of the mess they have created for rescuers to get their animals back.

 

Animal Farm Foundation with its million dollar budget after only starting in 2005 and HSUS with its multimillion dollar budget and you would think previous experience in this has made a horrible mess of getting the dogs back to their previous owners. 

 

Both HSUS and Animal Farm should be ashamed of the hoops they are making everyone jump through in order to even SEE if their dog is there. 

 

Why they did not call in Best Friends is beyond me..............the situation is sad but it was made horrible  by the lack of organization, the lack of communication, the poor communication and the secrecy surrounding this.

isadream
isadream

IF Petsmart was so "awesome" they woud have helped back when the place was damaged from the floods instead of waiting til the dogs were seized.  Not only that but 1 of these "rescued" dogs has already been found turned back in at a KILL SHELTER IN TEXAS.  No telling how many more will now be dumped in other kill shelters.

allen.richards
allen.richards

If anyone cares... HSUS, Petsmart Charities, Animal Farm foundation and the Montgomery County Constable office have really stepped up to find these dogs homes or get them to their rightful owners. I worked with a rescue group that donated some toys, towels and blankets.. In speaking with HSUS workers, they were putting in long hours and yet spoke lovingly about the dogs. Constable Holifield has earned the respect of a lot of us for his genuine concern for these animals. Regardless of any one groups' motivation the main objective now is to save the dogs. If you go to "Victims of spindletop raid" on facebook you will see that dogs are already being reunited with their owners. There is no question that only a large national organization had access to the resources needed to assist Montgomery County. the Montgomery County Animal Shelter is already stretched thin (although their staff is doing a pretty good job considering). So before everyone starts in on the HSUS they are out there getting it done. Until they prove otherwise I feel like they deserve the benefit of the doubt in this case.

luna621
luna621

For anyone citing what Humanewatch says, I suggest you check out who is behind THAT site! Yes, the HSUS is a political group with lobbyists (who lobby for laws protecting animals) Ugly fact, is that you need a group to lobby for laws that are important to you (AARP anyone?)  humanewatchinfo/blog/about-hw/

mandy057
mandy057

These people need to go to jail and have a steep fine.  As far as HSUS goes, they DO put down Pitties.  Did no one see the expose that was done on them a year or so ago??  Same with PETA.

Rescuepals
Rescuepals

Moral bankruptcy is correct. If they admitted it, then no problem. it is the deception that fries people, because they known darn well the money is going to pensions, lobbying, and advertising. Of course it's political. Yes HSUS actually stated they do 5,000 raid a year. We know they can't do quite that many. But they did claim to do those. Maybe they mean in the world. Humanewatch.org has listed their numerous sub-corps. No wonder they can funnel $$ like no tomorrow. 

Rescuepals
Rescuepals

No one minds. 400 hits on one day aint bad if no one's reading it.

Craig Malisow
Craig Malisow

I really don't want to get into an endless string here, but I specifically asked for evidence showing that, as of 2012, the HSUS has a policy calling for the killing of all seized pit bulls. (Or, short of having an actual policy, that they actually do want all pits to be put down). Yes, it's important to know that, prior to 2010, HSUS believed in putting down all pits believed to be used in fighting rings. They very publicly changed their position on that. Again, I would be extremely interested in any evidence showing that the HSUS is not living up to that. The link you provided does not appear to contain that evidence. As far as I can tell (and this is an ongoing story, so this may change) the HSUS never advocated for the wholesale slaughter of all seized pits, whether they were tied to a suspected dogfighting ring or not. I would also be interested in any evidence of this "standard policy" of conducting 5,000 raids a year. Was that a typo? That's more than 12 raids a day, including holidays.

Rescuepals
Rescuepals

go google it brainchild. HSUS standing policy claims they do 5k raids per year and guess who they raid? go look at bluedogstate.blogspot.com and read about goodwin. you simply are not informed no matter what IQ. no brains. one search string will show tons of such proof. its not a secret. you are not informed, period.

Wyatt
Wyatt

 *discern the message of I promise I'm closer to 75 than 50.

Wyatt
Wyatt

 It takes a high IQ to be able to discern a page that looks like a combination of someone's grandmother's personal Angelfire site, vomit and bad-acid-trip visuals? Yeah, ok.

Craig Malisow
Craig Malisow

 Well, the page seems to be a rundown of HSUS's euthanasia protocol. It also points out that HSUS has a lot of money. Neither of these things suggest an anti-pit bull policy. I would of course be interested in any evidence showing that, as of 2012, the HSUS arranges for the killing of all seized pits, contrary to what Jarl says. I just don't think there's any evidence on that particular page.

Samantha Rozier Rich
Samantha Rozier Rich

Excellent points Jennifer Stamey Lanier -- all too often special interest groups seem to lose sight of their goal and in turn use the groups they are supposed to be helping. Especially sad when this happens to dogs, children, etc. who do not have their own voice to fight back. I do not support HSUS for the very reasons you have noted. gggrrrrrrr!

Erin Mabry
Erin Mabry

This is appalling...how can people be so cruel and deceitful?

Jennifer Stamey Lanier
Jennifer Stamey Lanier

In other words, the local humane society shelters near this incident could use support right now because they are not affiliated with HSUS and will bear the brunt of these expenses. Less than 1% of HSUS money goes to help shelter pets yet over 80% of their ads use shelter pets to deceive pet advocates.

Jennifer Stamey Lanier
Jennifer Stamey Lanier

It gets much worse: "HSUS is in the business of seizing animals in concert with local legal entities. Once those animals are seized by HSUS, they are photographed in the presence of HSUS-Tshirt clad personnel for future fundraising pushes. They are held for only as long as it takes HSUS to line up places to put them, and then the animals are delivered to various rescues and shelters - who rarely get a dime from HSUS for the animal’s care. In a well documented case this year, the HSUS knowingly dropped animals off at high-kill shelters who still use a gas chamber to kill excess pets. It was confirmed by Shirley at YesBiscuit! that 4 otherwise adoptable dogs were gassed to death 4 days after the HSUS dropped them off and over a dozen dogs were never seen in the adoption photos at another shelter - they seem to have vanished off the face of the earth. Were those healthy and adoptable dogs also gassed days after HSUS “rescued” them? It costs a lot less to seize an animal and dump the animals on underfunded shelters than it does to offer long term care. So where is all the HSUS money going (I ask rhetorically)."

Jack Henderson
Jack Henderson

Let's hope that the ones saved all find good homes.

Katya Horner
Katya Horner

That's beyond sad. I hope they can find a way to place or reunite all of these pups with those who love them.

AmandaS.
AmandaS.

 @isadream What dog and what shelter? Please provide me some info so that I can attempt to pull the dog! Thanks!

Allen
Allen

Motivation is important and HSUS's track record (Katrina, Vick dog, "Faye" fundraising fraud, Wilkes County killings) is deplorable.  There may be great HSUS people/volunteers there, but the fish stinks from the top.

Allen
Allen

As a tax-exempt charity, HSUS is prohibited from acting as a political group and is legally not allowed to do more than a small amount of lobbying.  Their legislative fund is allowed to spend money lobbying, but without HSUS's deceptive fundraising, is a big flop.  HSUS doesn't care about the rules, and thinks they are above the law.  HumaneWatch is the least of their problems.

Allen
Allen

The answer to your questions was already posted, but removed (after HSUS complained?)  HSUS did advocate for the wholesale slaughter of ALL pits seized from fights -  and from pit bull breeders whose dogs were not involved in fights.  HSUS succeeded in getting hundreds killed, while the owners were later acquitted in several cases. 

 

HSUS has also recommended that pit bulls in shelters be put down, based on overpopulation and dubious behavioral tests.  That has been published in their sheltering magazine and elsewhere.  HSUS has NO CHOICE put to modify their stance after the Wilkes County massacre, but they should have changed it after their Vick dogs deserve to die debacle.  They refused. 

 

The fact that they are the only organization supporting Michael Vick is revealing and disturbing.  Even the ASPCA and PETA issued statements just days ago condemning Vick's current posturing. 

luannnelson75
luannnelson75

 @AmandaS.  @isadream  That dog (Texas) is safe.  This story has been blown all out of proportion.  Yes, he was picked up and taken back to Irving, but only because he was a shelter favorite and has many people there who love him and are dedicated to find him a home.  

allen.richards
allen.richards

 @Allen Understood and I was only referring to the experiences I have had w/the volunteers,the Montgomery county officials as well as the  resources  I saw committed.  I am in no way a HSUS booster and understand they have been guilty of some nefarious dealings.

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