Leah Purcell: Is the Alleged Animal Cruelty Queen Back in Business?

Categories: Texas

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Back in biz?

Clarification: The 2012 agreed order between Montgomery County and Leah Purcell, in which Purcell surrendered 287 dogs that a judge found were "cruelly treated," bars Purcell from operating an animal shelter, refuge or rescue in Montgomery County. It does not prohibit her from boarding animals.

For more explanation, see the end of this article.

Authorities in Montgomery County are investigating if former Spindletop Dog Refuge owner Leah Purcell is boarding dogs again,in violation of a court order. has violated a court order barring her from operating a rescue, shelter or refuge. Officials and Humane Society personnel raided her Willis property last year and seized nearly 300 dogs who had been kept in filthy conditions.

"It has been brought to our attention that there could be a violation of the court's order ...and while we are investigating that, we are continuing to move forward with the original animal cruelty investigation and hope to have that presented to the Montgomery County District Attorney very shortly," said Montgomery County Animal Control Director Tim Holifield. "At this point we are awaiting the final veterinary reports of each of the 298 animals that were seized."

The investigation was spurred by the discovery by animal rescue advocates of a website Purcell registered in August 2012, just over a month after the raid. The site, txcanineequinesolutions.us, does not list Purcell's name, or any other identifying information about the owner, or the location. A domain registry search on Wednesday listed Purcell and her current Willis address; however, as of today, the address was changed to a Marble Falls location. (Ever clever, Purcell also changed her contact info from "txcaninesolution@aol.com" to "noneofyourbusiness@nada.com.")

When we called the number provided on Wednesday, the woman who answered said she's not Leah Purcell, so, uh, there you go. (The phone number has also been changed since Wednesday).

Also removed from the site since Wednesday was a link to Purcell's civil attorney, Zandra Anderson. Both Anderson and Purcell have ignored the Houston Press's repeated attempts to learn the fates of dogs who are still unaccounted for.

We'll hopefully have more soon.

Further clarification: Many of the dogs Purcell claimed to have been "boarding" at her Spindletop Dog Refuge were dogs that remained in her custody for up to four years after she told the owners the dogs had been adopted -- a practice that is not consistent with general boarding services.

Purcell would not be in violation of the court order if she is legitimately boarding animals.

Another condition of the court order is that Purcell "cooperates with Montgomery County and Montgomery County Animal control, via her attorney, so that any rightful owners of any of the 287 dogs may timely get possession of their dogs."

As noted in this week's story, Purcell and her attorney, Zandra Anderson, have refused to abide by that condition in at least two cases. In one case -- eight months after the Spindletop raid -- the owner of a dog "boarded" at Spindletop still has not heard from Purcell or Anderson.

This is an e-mail sent on October 24, 2012 -- two months after Purcell registered a Web site for a new animal care business -- from the Houston Press to Purcell, Anderson and Montgomery County Animal Control Director Tim Holifield.

Hi Zandra,

I'm writing you on the record to see if you will disclose the whereabouts of a pit bull named Sophocles who Michelle Anderson left in Spindletop's care on April 27th. According to Michelle, Leah told her that Sophocles was adopted by "friends of friends" in Dallas.

If you are willing to say what happened to Sophocles, I will need a response from you by 5 p.m. today, Wednesday, Oct. 24. Please let me know if you need more information, although Leah Purcell should still have the paperwork. Your response, or lack thereof, will be noted in future articles.

Thanks,
Craig


It was sent after the dog's owner contacted the Press after not getting a response from Purcell or Anderson as to whether her dog was alive or was one of at least 30 who fatally overheated in a Spindletop building. To this date, the owner has no idea what happened to her dog.


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55 comments
debbiewilson
debbiewilson

I don't know anything about check your facts or this Oh Brother, but what I do know is rescue, and before you all start saying untrue comments or suggest somthing about any resuce, you should all be involved yourselves and check those facts first.

I don't care who was in the right or who was in the wrong, but this woman had dogs that died under her care, and there were more than just a couple.  So if you want to defend her, or believe has the right to do it again, then go work for her.

But in my book, no one has the right to abuse or neglect animals.  So keep it up Craig, I hope she gets nailed again, and whatever help you need, I'm right there.

Oh_brother
Oh_brother

Checkyourfacts Oh_brother Yourposts reminds me of another thought that runs through my mind.  All of these people keep harping about the money.  Amanda V even mentions the allegations of fraud.  To my knowledge there has been no allegations of fraud from anyone except the crazies who take the number of dog and multiply times $700 (or whatever amoiunt strikes them at the time) and then times 12 to come up with some ridiculous amount of money per year  When in fact what happened was $700 was charged for 3 months of boarding and after that time the dog was put into the rescue and no more money was charged.  How anyone can figure that anyone got rich off of that is a mystery to me.  Cindy Maribito claims in her articles that she paid $10,000 but then Cindy Maribito never met a lie that she did not like.  She also filed bankrupcy and discharged hundreds of thousands of dollars around that time but she expects us to believe that she had thousands of dollars she handed over.  Right.

Oh_brother
Oh_brother

One more point.  When dogs are given to a rescue the person giving the dog up is no longer the owner.  The rescue group is under no obligation to keep a previous owner informed of where the dog or cat went and in fact it is often in the best interest of the dog or cat for the previous owner to not know where the animal is. 

Rescue groups would be overwhelmed trying to keep other rescue groups or owners up to date on where an animal went.  If a rescue group or an owner wants to keep tabs on an animal then they should not be giving that animal up. 

I am sure that a high percentage (probably all) of the dogs that were seized last year from Ms Purcell were given up..  They were not there because Fido's mom and dad went on vacation.  They were given up because the former owners no longer wanted them or the rescue group could not keep them or they were going to be euthanized at a shelter. 

Reading all of the "my beloved pet" stories after the raid were really pretty sickening because if it was a beloved pet it would not have been at Spindletop to begin with.

I am sure that Ms Purcell was only trying to be polite and get some of the whiners to stop calling her when she said the dog had been adopted.  In hind sight she should have told them it was really none of their business.

Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

This is what the dept. of labor describesas the responsibilities of a good reporter.

Reporters should be dedicated to providing accurate and impartial news. Accuracy is important both to serve the public and because untrue or libelous statements can lead to lawsuits. A nose for news, persistence, initiative, poise, resourcefulness, a good memory, and physical stamina are important, as is the emotional stability to deal with pressing deadlines, irregular hours, and dangerous assignments.

Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

I wonder how it feels to get caught out and have to rewrite an article,..

Oh_brother
Oh_brother

Well, Craig, since you have corrected your article and since you obviously know that Ms Purcell is doing nothing to violate a court order then what is your article about then?  Too bad you are not an ethical reporter who checks his facts before he posts garbage.

Anse
Anse

For the record, I've got no stake in this story at all. I have had the experience of seeing a personal friend of mine unjustly demonized in the pages of the Press (John Lomax's take-down of Mitch Cohen a few months back). In that case, I was but a small part of a very large outcry of support for Mitch; he's got many friends, and the article did zero to damage his reputation in the Heights, from what I can tell. I don't know Leah Purcell. I don't know very much about this case. I do know that if she is guilty of abusing/neglecting animals, she deserves whatever she gets in these pages. If she doesn't, this reporter is an asshole. What can I tell you? It's common among Village Voice-associated weeklies to take a decidedly less-than-objective tone when writing stories like these. I don't particularly mind it, so long as we can get the view of others in other forums or in the comments. "Objectivity" is an aspiration that few journalists here or in any media are able to attain. The reason is 1) we're human, and 2) we don't like objective reporting. It's boring. The stuff with an angle is what sells, for good or ill. Personally, I want my reporters going after people. It's what they're supposed to do. When they screw up, we as readers can jump right in and the truth, I believe, will win out.

Gandalf
Gandalf

Thanks for keeping us up to date on Leah Purcell, Craig. Anyone who was "innocent" would not willingly sign over almost 300 dogs in my opinion. Too often these issues are forgotten about, and not followed up on so that everyone can be assured that no further cruelty to animals occurs under these same individuals.

Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

With the high number of vicious emails and facebook postings (and news articles) regarding this case is it any wonder people comment anonymously?

I never said I supported Ms. Purcell. I expressed my opinion that the reporter is very obviously biased, and digging up new dirt that actually now is proven to be not true. Basically, a story about a woman trying to put her life back together and doing it legally. But the reporter slanted it to fan the flames. And yes, a real reporter investigates their stories and makes sure they have the facts right.

One other point, your high profile organizations - Check the stories on all the lawsuits being filed against the HSUS for illegal seizures of animals. Particularly an illegal seizure in South Dakota and a horse seizure in Maryland.

Oh_brother
Oh_brother

@craigmalisow, a real reporter, investigates both sides and reports the facts.A real reporter keeps neutral and if he is biased a real reporter does not let that show through.Sorry Craig but you are not a real reporter. You have written one sided, slanted, garbage about this case from the beginning.So I do hope you are on to your next profession and you do a much better job.I want to ask one more question, why do you always comment about someone posting anonymously only if they disagree with you.You never mention about anyone who posts anonymously when they do agree with you.Such an ugly thing being one sided and biased and having the nerve to call yourself a reporter.@informed1, just the fact that you say these volunteers took hours and hours and days and now into the second week, but you want people to believe that one person took care of all of these animals properly.If the dogs had been vetted they would have had the proper paperwork.Please don’t try to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes.

@doggirl1, does the truth ever leave your lips?No one had a full page link of that website, not even when it first went up.

Amanda_Ev
Amanda_Ev

Thanks for helping to spread the news on this.  I will be interested to hear follow-up on whether any violations have occurred.  I'm also curious to know the legal structure of the business - without the rescue component, surely it will be more difficult to claim this a nonprofit. Currently there are no businesses in the State of Texas listed by this name, nor is Purcell listed as the owner or operator of any operational organizations.  

Purcell has gone out of her way to make this site anonymous (though she hasn't gone so far as to pay a small fee to make her information private, but rather has instead replaced the information with phony filler since being found out) and there were owned dogs entrusted in Purcell's care for boarding and/or training that were involved in the seizure and found in horrible conditions.  Anyone interested in boarding an animal ought to know the history here.  Who would entrust their pet to someone under investigation for animal cruelty?  Let alone allegations of fraud that have also come up since the seizure...

Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

Thank you Anse. Some actual facts. Possibly the reporter should have checked on those facts before printing this article?

Anse
Anse

Fact: the court order specifically allows Leah Purcell to board and train dogs according to guidelines spelled out in some detail (a link to the court order is below). Another fact: Craig Malisow is not speculating whether or not her boarding of these animals is in violation of the court order. Animal Control director Tom Holifield is making that claim. Malisow is merely reporting it. 

http://lawsforpaws.typepad.com/files/montgomery-county-order.pdf

Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

Wow. Looks to me like JohnnyBgood is asking a legitimate question. Craig interviewed Tammy Lorkovic for statements against Spindletop, and now she has the same sort of problem. Why hasn't that been investigated instead of dwelling on an incident 8 or more months ago? And all this reporter can do is get sarcastic and nasty? Huh. Seems biased to me. So, let me get this straight... some hoarders or misguided rescues are ignored  when they have atrocious conditions and supported and some are not? Gotta love the way that works! Or is it that Tammy helped  make the story on Spindletop and you don't want to bring it out that one of your sources is as bad as you say Ms. Purcell is?

Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

From my understanding, Ms. Purcell was told she could not run a rescue/sanctuary anymore. This new business is for training and boarding. Not the same thing. For years, she has been known for her training and behavior abilities as well as being an expert witness. Despite what may or may not have happened with the rescue dogs, and that still remains to be seen, there have been no criminal charges filed and her ability as a trainer or expert witness was never called into question. This article appears to be harassment based on personal dislike. Lets take away every manner that she can support herself. Even if it's legal. And I agree with JohnnyBgood, why not move on to some of the other so called rescue/hoarder situations? Didn't the HSPCA seize 41 animals recently? Whats your real intent? Did she not give you an interview? Rescue groups seem to be pretty vicious and petty to each other. So called friends that make huge efforts to ruin each other. Nice.

johnnyBgood
johnnyBgood

How about you report something more recent about Animal Hoarding and abuse by a Supposed Rescuer. One who you interviewed months ago when the Spindletop topic was hot.  Tammy Lorkovic from Humble, had over 60 dogs (many un-vetted) in addition to other animals. Where is that story Craig?  The rescue community has tried to keep it hush hush but the truth has been leaking out.  How about you put on your Reporting hat on and investigate that?  

RPeters
RPeters

@Oh_brother She also should not have let them come visit the dogs either.  I know of two area Rescues that visited on a regular basis to take dogs on outings.  I am sure there are more.  There is not a Rescue in Houston that I know of that would allow such openness.

Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

@Oh_brother 

I agree. If you really loved a dog, you would find a way to keep it. Turning it over to a shelter or a rescue is just giving someone else your problem. If it is too aggressive for you to keep (as is stated in some of those posts) and you can't find it a home, why do you think someone else can? Paying for board for 90 days and the dog stays for 2-3 years because it is unadoptable sounds to me like there was culpability in the number of animals there. Not to mention 3 months board doesn't come close to paying for that animal for 2-3 years. And why when there are happy friendly animals being euthanised because there are not enough adopters are all these people wanting to save aggressive animals that are a danger to society? How many seriously GOOD adopters that are responsible enough to handle aggressive animals are there out there?

johnnyBgood
johnnyBgood

@Oh_brother  It's about Craig not doing his job properly.  It's about him not researching  before writing an article.   Biased reporting as it's best.


Oh_brother
Oh_brother

@Anse for the record, I appreciate objecctive reporting whether in the newspaper or on tv.  I think reporters are worse then unethical when they rip someone apart without caring about the facts.  I do not believe that jounalist are supposed to go after people either.  They are supposed to report the facts as they happened and be open to hearing both sides of story and reporting both sides of the story.  The public should then have the right to make up their own mind.  Not doing so makes that reporter and that news media nothing more than tablid garbage..

Oh_brother
Oh_brother

@Gandalf that is certainly your opinion and frankly you do not have a clue as to what someone who is innocent would do until you are in the same position.  There are many legalities involved that you are not privy to so please do not pretend that you know.

RPeters
RPeters

@Checkyourfacts Do not forget the many lawsuits that have either claimed victory or settled out of court with large sums of hush money.

RPeters
RPeters

@Oh_brother Interesting point made here.  It takes multiple volunteers twice daily to take care and monitor Tammy's animals.  We are led to believe she took care of them by herself all while running around Houston picking up more animals, of course they would be in horrid conditions. I have recently seen the email from the Project K911 aka Rescue Bank in which there is a statement they want all that are involved with Tammy's animal on the hush-hush. 

In Re: to @doggirl1 aka Cindy Maribito.  She skipped over the definition of "truth" in school. Curious if she is just a pseudonym for Malisow as well, all know her rescue is fake.

informed1
informed1

@johnnyBgood I don't know where you've been getting your information from, but it's vastly inaccurate. There were 64 dogs in total; big, small, and inbetween. And volunteers were able to match up over half the dogs with vet records. Which is not to say the others were unvetted, only that the records were not easily located by volunteers taking time out of their lives to help a fellow rescuer.

johnnyBgood
johnnyBgood

Oh and the 60+ dogs were only the big dogs.  How about all the little dogs and the cats.

Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

@RPeters @Oh_brother 

Thats why they don't allow people to check on or visit dogs once they are turned in. She was trying to do good by the dogs.

johnnyBgood
johnnyBgood

@Checkyourfacts @Oh_brother  I'm of the belief that if a dog is "unadoptable" you do right by it and not try to dump the problem on someone else.   Many people feel it's ok to throw money at the problem and give the dog to someone else to take care of the animal.  There are too many sweet and wonderful dogs that die every day in shelters because there is no room. How about putting the problem dog to sleep humanely and saving one of those?

Oh_brother
Oh_brother

@Checkyourfacts @Oh_brother even a very good adopter who can handle an aggressive animal can never 100%% guarantee that dog will not get out by digging or get out the front door or never be exposed to a child or another animal again.  You are right, the problem is just passed on because people do not have the stomach for the alternative.  I can understand that but then don't then turn around and bemoan your beloved pet.  It is so sad that there are not enough homes for all the animals but it is a fact.  It is also sad that one person who got in over hear head is almost given sainthood while another is declared the devil.  In reality all of the people who could not stomach doing the right thing need to look in the mirror to see who much of the blame lies with.

Oh_brother
Oh_brother

@checkyourfacts can you check and see if there are any professions that need slanted, biased, only tell one side and not check out the facts but fan the flames?  Surely there is something.

Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

@Oh_brother @Checkyourfacts 

I noticed. After all the defensiveness and the alocades by the viciuos "rescuers" that want to put her out of business it's amazing how quiet it got! I can only hope that they are putting their efforts into the animals instead of trying to trash someone. And maybe Craig can find snother story that he actually researched.

Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

@RPeters @Checkyourfacts 

Oh but that would take actual research as well as acknowledging that the HSUS isn't the be all know all of animal welfare and might have hidden agendas behind their seizures.

allen.richards
allen.richards

I am not sure where you got your facts but I was out at the fairgrounds when there was still over 200 dogs left not 64. This story won't go away because this was a very sad and tragic case of hoarding and abuse. It should be a lesson for all. I don't know Leah personally  and most of my dealings with her were through Cindy. I will leave it at that. I did see the results first hand of what happened out there and it still bothers me to this day. Leah may have some issues she needs to work out. Regardless she needs to stay away from getting involved with animals beyond her own. Craig has done a good job of reporting an incident that needed to be brought to light.

johnnyBgood
johnnyBgood

So you are saying that because these people couldn't take time out to search for records, the dogs were re-vaccinated?  Because one of the volunteers posted that she was having to "stick dogs and pour liquid up their noses"

And as far as the conditions, people who were there mentioned the the animals were in deplorable conditions and many were not vaccinated.

craig.malisow
craig.malisow

@johnnyBgood Gee, I don't know, johnnyBgood, but I'm sure glad you're on the case! I can't believe I've been calling myself a reporter for the last 14 years. I'm calling it quits today and trading in this job for one where I can rant anonymously online. I only hope I'm one-eighth as proficient as you are!



Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

@Oh_brother 

Any threat to public safety needs to have a humane death. Sad, that most of those issues are owner caused.

Checkyourfacts
Checkyourfacts

@Oh_brother 

Isn't that the job description for the Houston Press and the Examiner? I could be mistaken...but...

johnnyBgood
johnnyBgood

@informed1 @johnnyBgood  No vet records says , un-vetted dogs.  screams Hoarder  situation. It's that simple.  If she was reputable, she would have kept records in one place.   That is what is required of rescues in case of an Audit.    

People spending hours and hours also screams hoarder situation because there is no way ONE woman alone could care for that many dogs and it's obvious her family was not involved in helping her from the posts I have read regarding this situation.  

informed1
informed1

@johnnyBgood I was there too. I never claimed some of the conditions weren't bad, just that some of the information you were stating was, in fact, inaccurate. Dogs were re-vaccinated so they would have current paperwork and be transferred elsewhere. And as for saying "these people couldn't take time out to search for records," again, please know what you are talking about before acting like you do. "These people" took hours and hours and days and now into the second week, out of their already extremely busy schedules to care for these dogs, get them into a better situation. The dogs are the priority. Not searching through endless stacks of paper.

Oh_brother
Oh_brother

@DocH @johnnyBgood @craig.malisow sorry Doc but real reporters check their facts before they post.  Real reporters do not write biased articles.  They tell the facts period.  Craig is not a real reporter, it is that simple.  He has proved that over and over again and not just concerning this case.

johnnyBgood
johnnyBgood

@craig.malisow @johnnyBgood @DocH  Seems to me you DO want to keep this up with that longwinded reply.   

I simply suggested that you investigate something more recent  but you instead chose to come on the attack. 

FYI am not supporting anyone here.  As a reporter you should know not to make assumptions.

So now you have a tip on Lorkovic,  hopefully you will do something with it.


craig.malisow
craig.malisow

@johnnyBgood @DocH @craig.malisow I don't want to keep this up all day, but, for the record johnnyBgood and Checkyourfacts, I have no problem with people criticizing my writing. In fact, my brother does it all the time! Your post was not a criticism of my writing, nor did it cite anything to dispute the content. It was simply an ad hominem attack.

First of all, it's a story about a county law enforcement official's investigation into whether or not someone violated a court order. Whether you like it or not, I did not invent this investigation; I merely reported on it. I think your frustration, then, should be targeted at officials, not me. Checkyourfacts -- this is not "dwelling" on an 8-month-old story. It is an entirely new story, about an entirely new investigation.

Secondly, Leah Purcell's entire history was "called into question" in the original feature story. For one thing, why don't you provide the cause numbers of every case Leah Purcell testified in as a court-recognized expert witness? Just because a person claims to be something ad infinitum does not make it so. (Believe me, if it were, I'd be Indiana Jones!).


Not even Purcell backs up her claims about being an expert witness -- an issue that was, again, addressed in the original story. 


Also, my stories about Purcell/Spindletop were spurred by high-profile law enforcement and U.S. Humane Society actions. That is, it transcended hollow allegations and speculation, unlike you accusing someone in the animal rescue community of wrongdoing without backing it up. For goodness' sake, man, you don't even have the guts to write under your own name -- yet you have no problem casting aspersions on someone else (without evidence) in a public forum? For shame. 

Also, wouldn't it be easier for Leah Purcell to nip this whole thing in the bud by not being secretive? 

And, as much as I would love to be omniscient, and just be this all-knowing oracle, I'm not. Reporters often get "tips," see, and they follow up on those. Sometimes they're nothing. Sometimes they turn out to be significant. One thing you could have done, if you had a real concern that Tammy Lorkavic was mistreating dogs, was to notify the police, an animal welfare organization, or the media. (Not me, of course, because I'm not a "real" reporter). Did you take any of those steps?

If you want to support Leah Purcell, fine, that's one thing. But you don't need to trample all over the facts to do so.



DocH
DocH

@johnnyBgood @craig.malisow You might not like this guy, but you're apparently ignorant when it comes to the field. Some excellent investigative reporting comes from weekly papers - certainly reporting done by, well, real reporters.


Of course, you might not actually be ignorant - you might just be upset about the story (or lack thereof) and looking to hurt someone's feelings, perhaps because you feel like people don't pay enough attention to you in real life. If that's the case, come here, let's hug it out.

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