Just a handful of weeks ago two girls found a dog lying in a ditch in front of a rural Perry County residence. Not knowing exactly who they should contact, they got in touch with Rough Road Rescue to ask for help. The rescue is located outside of Perryville, Mo.
The call for help came through the Rescue’s Facebook page. After an administrator of the page was able to get in touch with the rescue’s founder, Steve Svehla, Svehla went immediately to the address. What he found was deplorable.
The dog was on death’s door with puss pouring out of its eyes and ears. It was so dehydrated and malnourished that it had pressure sores covering its body from protruding bones, and the dog’s frame was devoid of any muscle mass. There were several spots where sores had opened and healed in the months before. Various bugs and mites were covering the dog’s body and maggots were present in some of its wounds.
The dog cried out, either out of fear or pain, simply from being touched, as Svehla lifted him into the transport kennel.
Svehla rushed the dog to the rescue’s vet clinic in Perryville where it was examined by veterinarian Mark Freeman.
In the meantime, local authorities were notified. They instructed Svehla that before anything could be done with the dog there must be an attempt to contact the owner, if any.
A Perry County Deputy went to the area where Svehla had picked up the dog but the property owner refused to lay claim to the animal, even though a dozen or more dogs that looked identical to the dying hound (breed, markings, coloring) littered the property.
After the officer arrived at the clinic it was determined that the dog’s condition was so severely progressed that humane euthanasia was the only choice. It was not a choice made lightly by either Svehla or Doc Freeman. The dog had already suffered so much and gone so long in its suffering that any possible treatment would likely just prolong the inevitable and be torture to the hound.
“We give animals every chance possible. We have brought a few dogs back from failing health but this poor hound was just so far gone, attempting treatment would have been torture. He had suffered too much already to put him through anything more, and the chances of him making it, were almost none,” said Svehla.
Svehla saw to it that the dog received a proper burial. And then he went to social media to cry out in his rage over the poor hound that had deserved better.
“Such a beautiful day but not for this poor dog,” writes Svehla, with exclamation. “I’d like to invite the person that let this animal suffer to come out and meet me. I’m letting you know (because I) will be more than happy to tell you looking in your eyes, that you are one of the most worthless pieces of shit that there is. This poor animal has been suffering for a long period of time. I had to wash the infection from his eyes just to see if he actually still had eyes. He literally had places that were rotting. I wish there was a happy ending to this, but the truth is we were too late. “
No owner ever came forward. No case was ever opened by law enforcement to find and prosecute anyone. When Svehla call the county’s sheriff department and ask where the case stood, he was told there was no case. No owner, no case.
Svehla’s anger and frustration comes from seeing case after case of animal abuse and neglect in his county that law enforcement can’t or won’t do anything about. People of the area call, text, email, and Facebook message his rescue daily, demanding that he do something about one case of abuse and neglect or another, but for most cases, his hands are tied.
“We are just a rescue,” says Svehla. “We have no legal authority what so ever. We are just like any other resident of the county. We have no authority to seize an animal, arrest anyone, or prosecute a case. All we can do is file a complaint and try to push it as hard as we can to make the local officials act on the complaint. More times than not, they sweep it under the rug and forget about it.”
The rescue does what they can to answer calls, approach pet owners, and try to assist them with situations they may need help with. But they cannot take animals from people lawfully any more than they legally walk into their home and take their television set.
In the state of Missouri, animals are considered property and taking one without consent is theft. Sadly, the stealing of a person’s animal is a felony, while abusing or neglecting one is only a misdemeanor. Even more disturbing is the number of abuse and neglect cases that go uninvestigated or prosecuted.
While people cry for more strict animals laws throughout the state, they fail to realize it’s really not the lack of laws in Missouri that’s the problem. The real issue is that most law enforcement and city officials simply do not take animal crimes seriously and do not investigate or prosecute crimes against currently existing laws.
In Missouri it is the law that all animals be provided with food, water, adequate shelter, and any needed veterinary care. No animal should live in conditions where they are physically suffering. But anyone who has ever tried to contact law enforcement about an animal abuse or neglect case knows that their complaints are rarely looked into much less resolved. Of course this varies from town to town and county to county as some agencies are more apt to act than other.
Rough Road Rescue recommends that anyone filing a complaint make sure to follow up on it. Call the day after you make the complaint to make sure that animal control or a county officer has been dispatched to check out the complaint. If they have, find out what is being done about the situation. If no investigation has occurred, demand that it be looked into and call back again the following day. If you continue to get the run around, go to the next level of authority in your city or county and make your complaint known until you finally get some action.
Rough Road Rescue has provided a list on their website, of Perryville, Perry County, and Missouri state authorities that you can contact to try to get issues investigated and resolved.
“You have to stay on them (authorities). If you don’t, your complaint will probably just fade away,” said Svehla. “It’s a shame it works that way; that you have to push so hard to get law enforcement to do the job they are paid to do, but that’s the way it is with animal crimes.”
Svehla named the hound Country and gave him a proper burial. “It’s the most horrible condition I have ever seen a dog in.” said Svehla. “It will stay with me as long as I live.”
It is against the law in Missouri to abuse or neglect any animal. If you see animals abused or neglected you are urged to call your local law enforcement immediately. File a formal complaint and follow up on your complaint. If your complaint is not addressed in a timely fashion, go to department heads of your local law enforcement and insist that your complaint be looked into. Stay with every complaint you file until there is some sort of resolution in the case.
Animal cases are often overlooked or not taken seriously. It is up to concerned citizens to be persistent and to make sure the proper steps are taken to insure each case is treated as it should be; a crime. Persistence is key.