Animal rescuer discovers dog locked in local city office for days

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MARLIN, Texas (KWTX) A Falls County city is working to change its animal control policies after at least one stray dog was kept in an office over the Thanksgiving holiday.

(Photo by Rissa Shaw)

City of Marlin officials say it was an emergency situation and the dog had food and water available, but an animal activist who found the dog disagrees and says it was left in deplorable conditions.

"It was horrendous," said Michelle Ann, President of Cribs for Canines.

Michelle Ann, who has been rescuing animals for nearly two decades, says she's seen the worst of the worst, but never in a city building.

"Who locks a dog in a room and doesn't check on it for a week," said Michelle Ann. "I have no words."

She says she came to Marlin to talk to the city's animal control officer about her group hosting a free, micro-chipping event in December.

"I went up to the door and I kept knocking and it smelled real bad and so I peaked in the window and all I seen was feces everywhere, everywhere," said Michelle Ann.

Michelle Ann briefly spoke with the ACO then called the Falls County Sheriff's Office.

"I didn't think there was a police chief yet," said Michelle Ann.

Falls County Sheriff Ricky Scaman responded and agreed, the conditions were poor.

"There's not doubt it's deplorable conditions, it's full of feces," said Scaman. "It's bad."

The city's animal control officer is defending herself, saying she had a family emergency and felt it was better to take-in the stray animal than not.

"My father was life-flighted out with a heart attack and I had to leave early one day, and that played a part in it too, it was several things at once," said Jennifer Bridges, Marlin's Animal Control Officer. "I can promise we try our best."

Marlin doesn't have an animal shelter, and recently switched shelters, signing a contract with the one in Rosebud because sending animals to the City of Waco Animal Shelter was too expensive.

"There are a lot of people mad we switched from Waco to Rosebud, but it was going to go up to $85,000 a year," said Bridges. "It's based on usage and Marlin uses it a lot more than smaller towns comparable to our size, so we can't afford that, unfortunately."

Here's the problem: the Rosebud shelter was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday, and when someone came to give Marlin a stray dog, Bridges said she didn't want to turn them away and offered her office as a place for the animal to stay.

"What am I supposed to say, 'wait and come back Monday?' No.'" said Bridges.

While city officials don't normally house dogs in the Animal Control office/building, City Manager Cedric Davis Sr. says they can in emergencies and on the weekends when things are closed.

"(when) They house them for the weekend, patrol is supposed to come out and let the dog out and do its business and do its thing, and let the dog back in: did it happen this weekend? I can't answer that," said Davis.

Davis, who has been Marlin's Acting Chief of Police since the untimely death of Chief Nathan Sodek in late August, says he wasn't aware of the situation, nor was the city's new Police Chief, Lawrence McCall, whose first day on the job was Monday.

"I haven't even met all the officers, I haven't even been sworn in yet," said McCall.

McCall will be sworn in 6pm Tuesday.

One of his first orders of business was having Bridges clean her office and handle the dog situation.

"I talked to her and we just went over a couple things, protocols that need to happen, and if it's not in place, it will be in place," said McCall.

Although multiple sources say otherwise, Bridges says the dog had access to food and water, and was cleaning her office Monday afternoon.

"It wasn't that bad," she said. "I can promise you there was nothing detrimental to that dog."

Bridges, who also does code enforcement for the city and fills in as a dispatcher, said she was asked to work dispatch Monday morning.

"I would have cleaned it (her office) first thing this morning but I had to fill in this morning, we had a medical emergency," said Bridges.

However, Michelle Ann says it the city's medical attention should have been paid to the dog days prior as it was suffering a deep cut on it's neck, likely from being left on a leash or collar.

She offered to take the eight-month-old mutt and get it veterinarian care, and city officials agreed.

"I was able, within two hours, to get this dog medical help, two hours--she's had the dog a week," said Michelle Ann.

Bridges said she was glad the dog was receiving care.

"I'm thankful that she took it and is going to get it vet care, I think that's wonderful," said Bridges.

She admitted the city needed help handling animal issues.

"We're trying to work it out, we're trying to put programs in place," said Bridges.

City officials say they plan to change policies and make a deal with the Rosebud shelter to allow officers to be able to drop-off animals there after-hours.

"If there was a lack of communication a breakdown of communication, that's on me," said Bridges.

Michelle Ann believes she saw a different dog through Bridges' window, however, city officials deny the claim.

Despite the situation, Michelle Ann said she still wanted to help the city.

"They did own up to it, I guess what they saw, you can't un-describe it, you can't take it away," said Michelle Ann. "I'm going to follow them, I want them to make change, will I still be there doing a microchip event? Yeah, I will, this is about the dogs, it's not about us."

Michelle Ann took the dog, whose been named Noelle in honor of Christmas, to La Vega Veterinary Clinic for treatment; she says Noelle tested heart-worm negative, and they cleaned her neck wound and would receive a full evaluation Tuesday morning.

Once the vet gives her a clean bill of health, Cribs for Canines will place Noelle up for adoption.

A donation account has been setup at La Vega Veterinary Clinic for Noelle's care (254) 799-0808.