For months I have wanted to write about this. Even before what happened to Argus & Fiona. But friends of mine asked me not to, they wanted to pursue this through proper channels in the legal system. They were afraid they would not see justice for what happened to them and one of their dogs. So they did things the “right” way and basically got screwed by the legal system in my humble opinion. It is my opinion if the laws were different, maybe the outcome would have been as well.
This, therefore is a cautionary tale and since April is prevention of cruelty to animals month, I am also posting.
So there was this couple. They fell in love and bought this crazy gorgeous house in Mt. Joy in Lancaster County. I was at their wedding. I photographed their wedding. Not so long after they tied the knot in December 2011 they rescued a puppy. They named him Porter.
I know everyone says all puppies are adorable and cute and sweet, but Porter seemed to have all that going on and more. Just a nice dog. He survived a horrible bout of Parvo after being rescued. As he recovered, he settled into his new family and started to grow up.
Everything was going along swimmingly until mid-January. My friend was in her kitchen accepting a delivery from a local farm called Breakaway Farms (and they deliver clear down to Washington, DC and you can bet I will never patronize them after this or knowingly patronize a business that buys from them, and I am entitled to that opinion aren’t I?)
So I will let my friend tell it in her own words:
….so here we are in the kitchen with all this gorgeous chicken and lamb freshly delivered. And there was the deliveryman. Without getting into too much detail, it was perhaps the strangest thing I’ve seen in many years. And since it was happening in my own kitchen, it was quite surreal.
Within a flash of a second, this man had our Porter pinned the kitchen floor, hands on his neck, full weight of his body on top of the 49lb dog. Porter screamed out for help,
lost complete bowel control yet still did not bite this man (although he would have been welcome to at that point). The man picked Porter up, opened our back door – and threw him out. Porter stood quivering in the backyard, curled into a protective ball, tail tucked between his legs. He was covered in his own urine and feces.
In my rare stroke of good luck, I was able to be calm with the man. Did I want to gut him like a fish? Oh hell yes. But being able to maintain some calm in an otherwise insane scene, I knew what I had to do was be calm and get him out
before he hurt Porter more, or turned on me…. I made a quick call to one of the business owners. I’ve done business with these folks before and I liked them. I expected nothing other than a very reasonable response.
After that, we waited to hear from the other half of the ownership, and waited, and waited. We watched Porter’s demeanor and could clearly see the effects of the assault. He was afraid to even go into his own kitchen. It was clear we needed to contact the police….A call to the police doesn’t always “pack the same” punch (no pun intended) of
going Walking Tall on someone. But it was the right thing to do. People who so easily do things like this to an animal are capable of just as easily doing this to a human being. And animal abuse isn’t something to glaze by “just because
it’s an animal.” No. Not in this house, and not in yours either we’re guessing. Hoping. This guy needs to be prosecuted.
We live in Mount Joy Borough, PA. I’m not sure how big, or maybe I should say how small this place is. It’s tiny.
When we all learned what happened to their dog, we wanted to shout it from the roof tops. But our friends said they wanted to play it safe in a small town in Lancaster County and let Lady Justice deal with it. Well apparently, Lady Justice isn’t a dog person, because this is what happened next again in my friend’s own words:
…..there was the underlying stress of this morning’s court date against our beautiful dog Porter’s attacker, Dale Burns. Until today, we had not released his name wanting to give the judicial system its fair shake first. I was not
actually feeling stressed about the event, more looking forward to staring this beast in the eye and listening to his account of that day’s events. The details of that day are still exceptionally fresh in my mind.
Closing my eyes, or looking into Porter’s, I can see the brutally of what was probably only just a few minutes, and still hear his screams. I’ve been clear about the facts of the story, consistent. And exceptionally clear that Porter in
no way provoked this man into grabbing him by the neck and slamming him to the floor…..In court, we saw the “cleaned up” version of Dale. Maybe there were a few less inches of beard. There was some sort of button-down shirt, button at the top and bottom only, with the grungy farm garb clearly visible underneath. But there we finally were, face to face. There was his “attorney,” equally disheveled in an attempt to clean up and present for the day. And there was our “prosecutor.” In this tiny town, your reporting police officer is often your prosecutor….I told my side of the story. Clear, concise and factual. He told his story,
which at points read more like a fairytale. Officer Cook asked his questions. Dale’s “lawyer” asked his, hinting at how absurd the entire story sounded – a deliveryman coming into my home and playing with one dog, then mentally snapping and slamming another to the ground. The judge, a local Mount Joy attorney, took it all in before calling Officer Cook and the lawyer back into his quarters.
When they returned, the judge explained how all four charges were being dismissed. He first explained that the animal cruelty charge was being dismissed because according to PA state statutes, Dale had to have a “duty to care” for Porter, which he did not. I heard next something about the disorderly conduct charge being dropped, my elderly neighbor not being there to testify about the
screaming she heard from Porter that day. And then I just didn’t hear anymore. We had lost. For the second time, I had failed to protect my dog. There was no justice for Porter in that court…..
I am still sick to my stomach every time I hear about this. There are way too many cruel humans around. And this illustrates yet again why dog laws and animal cruelty laws need to be improved, need to change, and additional laws need to be created.
And the irony that this incident occured and was kicked to the curb in Lancaster County. After all Lancaster County is known as what? Puppy Mill Capital of PA, right? All that glorious farm land, scenery, and antiquing hides the dark underbelly of something doesn’t it? A place where dogs are no more valuable than an ear of corn, and twice as disposable.
The horse is out of the barn, and now my friend has a young dog forever tainted by the brush of violence. It is like this dog has post traumatic stress syndrome. Seriously, read on (again in my friend’s own words):
For the last two plus months since Porter was attacked inside our our home by a deliveryman, many of you have been kind enough to continue asking how he is recovering. Every day,every encounter with someone outside the immediate family, has been a test for Porter. One month ago, there was a ray of hope when someone came to the door and he suddenly ran right up to him. A few nights later, he was back to cowering in a corner and shaking, despite efforts to get him to come over to get his head scratched or belly rubbed…..Nearly three months after being attacked, we’d have to say that it looks like our boy is changed forever. Porter is no ordinary dog. In fact, he’s more human than dog. Porter, a gorgeous red aussie shepherd, is extremely smart and sensitive…..The downside of Porter’s intelligence in light of this attack is that he has
learned not to trust everyone as he used to do. He now knows humans can be capable of some very ugly behavior. He knows this first hand. Porter was a rescue dog. He was part of a litter dumped on the side of the road in North
Carolina. We adopted him hours after his arrival in Philly after he was saved by some pretty incredible people, only to find out the next day he had parvo virus and a host of other potentially lethal bugs. He has cheated death twice already
– and certainly deserves to live a life of nothing but happiness at this point.
The Porters and Arguses and Fionas and Zoes and Izzys of this world deserve better from humans. I am not a lawmaker, but maybe all of us, together, peacably, can make a difference. This is why it is important you contact your lawmakers and ask them to change more laws and protect Pennsylvania’s dogs. Useless people like Congresswoman Allyson Schwartz are already doing the coy dance for governor, so let us make this an issue in Pennsylvania every election until this is done.
Our dogs are part of our families. I have had rescues who were badly abused, abandoned, even one that was in a horrible house fire and then abandoned before I rescued him.
My heart is heavy because this is so unfair, so unjust. What if this happens again in Mt. Joy or some area serviced by this farm? Then what?
Say a prayer to St. Francis and hug your dogs and keep them safe. You just never know what will happen. Look what happened to Porter. In his own home, in front of his humans. And why? For what? He was just a puppy.