Dallas County DA’s Office Creating Animal Abuse Unit
December 4, 2012 9:29 PM
DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – The abused animal situation in Dallas County is acute enough that commissioners are thinking about creating a special unit within the District Attorney’s office specifically to prosecute animal abuse cases.
“This year, through November 28, there were more than 2,841 reports to the city of Dallas alone about animal cruelty,” Dr. Elba Garcia told her colleagues, and speculated that there are many more county wide.
Public speakers cautioned that animal abuse was no minor thing and was often a gateway practice to larger crimes. “The FBI has shown that every serial killer in the United States started off abusing animals,” Skip Timble of the Texas Humane Legislation Network told the Commissioners Court.
But it would cost 200-thousand dollars to get the unit off the ground. So Safer Dallas, Better Dallas began private fund raising. Founder Charles Terrell told CBS 11 News, “We’ve got to get momentum going, first of all, and the money gives you momentum.”
He praised the DA’s office for its planning so far, including a full-time prosecutor and investigator. “I think they’ve done a marvelous job of planning for this internally, and we’ve got to do a marvelous job of motivating people to give.” It received 40-thousand dollars in seed money from outgoing commissioner Maurine Dickey and her husband Roland, of Dickey’s Barbecue.
David Alex would head the 2-person unit. He says it’s more than animals; child abusers often torture family pets to keep the child in fear. “We see cases all the time where the abuser will say, ‘Look and see what happens to you if you talk.’ They’ll abuse the dog in front of the child in order to keep them silent.” Alex adds, “The victim will be so afraid to leave the abuser because they don’t want to leave the family pet there with the abuser.
And they stay for years and years in this abuse relationship because of the animal.” Several animal rescue groups were on hand as the check was presented to Safer Dallas, Better Dallas. Among them Terry Ottley of Gabby’s Sanctuary ARK in Cedar Hill, a rescue group for dogs and cats, but especially horses, including a new rescue, Oscar. “A lot of them are abused, as you can see Oscar is a little bit underweight at 8 months but a little TLC will do wonders for him.”
Some were seriously neglected. One horse came to her 475 pounds underweight, she said. Several horses sport dots of aluminum spray that keeps flies off exposed skin of their mottled hides Ms. Ottley has about 20 horses here and says about half of them come from abusive situations. “We lost a horse about two months ago that if they’d just had the tetanus shot he would’ve survived but he ended up with lockjaw.” She likes the idea of a central clearing house to cut through the red tape of overlapping municipal rules agencies. “If it causes us not to have to go through all those levels to get an immediate release of abused animals, then I think this is going to be a fantastic operation,” she said.
Formal commissioners court approval is set for next week, but the unit will not be created until the $200,000 in donations is reached. Donations to Dallas County Animal Cruelty Unit can be accepted atwww.SaferDallas.com Gabby’s Sanctuary ARK is a nonprofit 501(c)3 with a website that can be found at www.gabbysARK.org
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It’s a blistering July afternoon in Cedar Hill, and Terry Ottley is walking the “back nine,” as she calls it, an expanse of land in south Cedar Hill that is home to Billie Jean and Sydney, two horses in her care.
“Once, I rescued people, but some of them didn’t want to be rescued,” Ottley said.
The Cedar Hill resident saves animals now — including Billie Jean and Sydney — and hopes to establish a permanent no-kill sanctuary with help from the city.
“She is someone who is an advocate of animals, and she’s taking in as many as she can,” said Cedar Hill City Council member Clifford Shaw, who is hoping to help Ottley establish her sanctuary. “She’s a big animal lover and just wants to see if we can do something to help.”
Billie Jean and Sydney are roaming on land that Ottley is leasing, but the 11-year Cedar Hill resident hopes to establish Gabby Sanctuary Ark on land of her own.
“I would like to have my own land, and eventually that will happen, but I can’t do it without assistance, I’ve found,” said Ottley, who is the community affairs manager for a Dallas bank.
Ottley has always been around animals, she said, and she has always fostered dogs and cats, but it wasn’t until 2009 when she discovered nine horses that were severely neglected in Ovilla that she decided to add those animals to her fostering duties.
“What I’m trying to do is get something like Operation Kindness on this side of south Dallas,” said Ottley, who has applied for nonprofit status and said she expects that to be finalized in a couple of months.
Ottley has had Sydney since September 2009, and the horse was more than 450 pounds underweight. Now, Sydney is about to turn 4 years old and is inseparable from Billie Jean.
“You do this after hours. You feed your horses once a day,” Ottley said as the horses follow her around as she feeds and waters them. “What you find is that if you’ve got 6 acres and 6 to 9 horses, that’s not enough. You need one acre per horse.”
Ideally, Ottley would like to use the old Tri-City Animal Shelter building for her rescued dogs and cats, and that’s where the city comes in.
Currently, the building is used for storage for the shelter, which moved to a much larger facility a few years ago.
“We’ve discussed it with city staff, but when it gets to the council level, I would certainly be an advocate for her,” Shaw said.
Ottley’s proposed sanctuary is named after a cat that showed up on her doorstep in 2003 and recently died.
Ottley also envisions a place where children can go to educate themselves about animal care and take care of the sanctuary’s residents.
“They need some place they can do to get away from drugs and have something to do, especially in the summer months,” Ottley said. “You know, when you see kids around animals, it’s just fantastic.”
The sanctuary is an expensive undertaking, said Ottley, who estimates that she spends between $20,000 to $25,000 a year on the animals.
“If you keep going back to that, you’re going to be bankrupt,” she said.
Ottley has established a board of directors and hopes to have a website up in the near future.
“Terry was always one of the ones growing up that, whenever she was involved in something, she always gave it her all,” said Herb Watson, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Army who is Ottley’s vice president of development. “Just knowing what kind of person she is in her personal life, she’s just the type you want on your team for this.”
Loyd Brumfield is the editor of Best Southwest/Grand Prairie/Oak Cliff neighborsgo and can be reached at 214-977-7686.
Captain Jack was adopted when he was 8 years old from the Dallas, TX SPCA. Jack has been and continues to be a wonderful dog and is now 15 years old. He enjoys family vacations to the beaches of Florida and the mountains of Colorado and is a fantastic traveller. Jack has added so much to my family’s life; just like a rescue or foster animal can add to yours. Please evaluate your current situation to see if there is any way to make room for a rescue animal. If you are not able to make a permanent commitment maybe you have room for a temporary friend in our foster program. These animals need a safe place. Can you offer one?
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