Dogs Found Sick and Scattered
Ft. Pierce, FL - After a courier failed to deliver 14 pit bulls to the Georgia-based no-kill shelter, Homeless Pets Foundation, officials are trying to figure out what happened to the dogs. Currently, 13 of the dogs are back at the St. Lucie County Humane Society, some showing new health problems such as flea infestation and malnourishment after police found them scattered across the Treasure Coast. One dog is still missing.
Fort Pierce police are considering criminal charges against the courier, Mark Hawthorne, who says he did nothing wrong in dropping them off with a man in Okeechobee that could find them homes. A month after Hawthorne dropped off the dogs, Fort Pierce police raided the home of a drug suspect, finding cocaine, cash and one pit bull, which was identified as one of the missing 14 pit bulls.
Police began retracing the dogs' brief but bizarre odyssey, rescuing the others from the home of an Okeechobee man, Devon Mitchell, Mitchell's aunt's house and a shelter at a Seminole Indian reservation. Police said Hawthorne may have committed a crime if he violated the court order, if he colluded with the dogs' original owner or if he sold the animals and pocketed the money. Detective Schramm believes Hawthorne bears the brunt of responsibility.
"He says he'll do all this for these dogs, but now they're in a back yard in Okeechobee; one ends up in a drug house in Fort Pierce; and the other is running down the road. That, ultimately, sums it up."
Hawthorne concedes the owner of the place he left them may have allowed them to be adopted by the wrong people, although he said the Okeechobee home seemed more than safe with "professional-grade" kennels. Police differ, saying the dogs were found chained to barbell plates and stored in hot wooden kennels. Yet, it's unclear if Hawthorne violated the court order. Judge Cynthia Cox's order did not specify which no-kill animal shelter that he should deliver the dogs.
03/25/08: Humane Society Gets Bamboozled; Rescued Pit Bulls Never Make it to Shelter