I love dogs and have rescued several pits and trained them. But stories like this one make me feel like many dogs are better off humanely killed than living a life of slow torture.
By Craig Malisow
By Jeff Balke
By Angelica Leicht
By Jeff Balke
By Sean Pendergast
By Sean Pendergast
By Jeff Balke
By Ben DuBose
Check out our photos of the rescue and evacuation effort at the Spindletop Dog refuge.
When authorities served a warrant at the Spindletop Dog refuge north of Houston on July 17, they turned up nearly 300 dogs stacked in filthy crates, and countless questions.
In the rear of the property, right where the former employee told them it'd be, workers for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) found a pit containing the decomposed remains of at least five dogs. Here's what happened, the employee said: The power went out in what they called the Morgan building, and the place turned into an oven in the June heat. Thirty-eight dogs asphyxiated, he claimed. He said he knew this because he was the one who buried them.
It didn't take long for the word to spread through the rescue community in Houston, and then to rescues across the country, because the place being raided was considered one of the country's premiere sanctuaries for pit bulls. Its owner, 46-year-old Leah Purcell, had earned a reputation as a saint. She pledged to find homes for sick or injured strays brought to her by Good Samaritans, and pits pulled from high-kill shelters by rescue groups. People gave strays and shelter dogs to Purcell because she promised to find them good homes. Although they weren't people's pets, their caretakers still felt a strong attachment and obligation toward them. She saved hundreds of scared, shivering, traumatized dogs stranded in hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Ike. She pleaded in 2001 with a federal court judge in Virginia to spare the lives of pits tortured by ex-Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick and his cohorts. Purcell wanted the court, and the country, to know that these dogs were not beyond salvation.
Standing by Purcell the day of the seizure was Spindletop's attorney, Zandra Anderson, a woman who bills herself as The Texas Dog Lawyer. In the coming weeks, Anderson would deny HSUS's claims of dogs fermenting in their own waste, the hair and skin around their paws discolored from urine burns. Anderson proved proficient at denial. She was less adept at explaining why dogs Purcell said had been adopted months and years ago were plainly visible in a video of the seizure.
The 298 dogs removed from Spindletop were transported to a temporary shelter at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds just outside Conroe. Local law enforcement worked around the clock with the HSUS, as well as volunteers and staff from local animal welfare organizations, to bathe, feed, evaluate and identify the dogs. The workers were charged with the overwhelming task of returning dogs to the people who had turned them in to the shelter. Their previous caretakers waited to find out if the dogs they sent to Spindletop would be accounted for.
Fueled by betrayal, animal welfare advocates dug into Purcell's past to find out if the last 20 years had been a sham. Why had she lied about dogs being adopted? Was she a common hoarder, or was it something more sinister? Also, how could so many rescue groups have been unaware of what was actually going on at Spindletop?
Due to the possibility of criminal charges, Purcell and Anderson aren't talking. They refuse to tell some people if their dogs are alive or if they were among the 38 allegedly rotting in a mass grave. And a Houston Press investigation of Purcell, including an examination of court records, financial statements, archived e-mails, and interviews with former friends and rescue associates only creates more questions, the biggest one being: How did someone who devoted her life to saving dogs come to this?
On March 13, 2004, Claudia Hoier received a late-night phone call from a frantic Purcell saying that she was in Florida and had just been told that her kennel on Windfern Road (Spindletop's former location) in northwest Houston was on fire and that the dogs might be burning alive.
Purcell said she'd gotten a call from the woman she'd left in charge, 23-year-old April Longhurst. According to Hoier, Purcell asked her to rush over to Windfern and help Longhurst rescue the dogs. Purcell was powerless. After all, she was 600 miles away, visiting her fiancé, a registered sex offender named Frank Cosimino Corrente.
By the time Hoier arrived, firefighters and animal control were on site. According to Hoier, Longhurst managed to pull most of the dogs, still in their plastic crates, from the building. But she didn't make it in time to grab one, a pit named Bridget, whose crate was apparently near the origin of the fire. Pinned in place, Bridget was helpless as the plastic crate melted onto her. Harris County Animal Control wanted to euthanize the dog, but Longhurst insisted that they wait for Purcell's veterinarian, who was en route.
"Leah's vet turned out to be a vet tech who had no authority whatsoever to euthanize a dog," Hoier says. "...So I asked the fire people that were still there...they had to rip the crate off the dog and rip the dog off the floor and put [her] in my van." Hoier says she and the vet tech booked to an emergency clinic, where Hoier paid to have Bridget — now a barely breathing heap of charred flesh clinging to coagulated plastic — put out of her misery.
"It is a nightmare that I will remember the rest of my life," Hoier says.
According to Hoier, Purcell had crammed 33 dogs into the 10x10 building, jeopardizing their health and safety. This was the breaking point in Hoier's decade-plus friendship with Purcell.
She says she and others who had noticed fissures in Purcell's personality shared what she had seen with the Houston rescue community, but that it fell on deaf ears. Not only that, but "We were ostracized like you would not believe," she says.
After that, Hoier says, Purcell got a lot more careful about who she let onto the property and how far they could go.
"As time went on, she never let people past a fence that she had up," Hoier says. "So if people didn't go back on the property, there was no way they would know how many dogs were on that property."
In that way, Purcell presented Spindletop to the public just as she presented herself: a legitimate, organized front concealing some serious malfunctions.
Spindletop's Web site has been just as much about Purcell's self-anointed greatness as about saving dogs.
The Web site claims that Spindletop had been in existence since 1985, when Purcell was 19. Ostensibly, this is also around the time she earned the degrees in finance and business that grace her résumé. However, there is no record of Purcell running any sort of animal rescue organization prior to 1995, and neither the University of Houston nor Texas Southern University has records indicating Purcell received a degree.
An archived page from the site in 2004 featured a photo of Purcell, stoic in shades and a mane of wavy blond hair, surrounded by five pit mixes. The copy below read: "Leah Purcell has single-handedly owned and operated Spindletop for fifteen years...She runs several home based businesses to pay for the rescue efforts out of her own pocket, which totals over $4,000 monthly on average." (Since the site was seldom updated, the "fifteen years" bit was never adjusted for the times. By 2008, Purcell claimed to pay a monthly average of $12,000 out of her own pocket.)
On its face, the claim of any degrees relating to finance is laughable, because no one has ever accused Purcell of being wise with money.
The first recorded hint of subpar financial management skills would be a Harris County forgery bust from 1991, when Purcell tried to pass a $250 check drawn on the account of a dental-supply company. She was given ten years probation, which was dropped after three years.
Purcell also liked to call Spindletop a nonprofit since its inception; however, she didn't file papers for nonprofit status with the Texas Secretary of State until 2005. After two years in which she didn't file updates, the nonprofit status was forfeited. But none of this was a roadblock: E-mails obtained by the Press, as well as archived pleas for donations still available online, show that Purcell simply poached other rescue groups' tax ID numbers.
A 2000 plea for donations — as well as e-mails in 2008 — bore the federal tax ID number of a New York charity called the American Animal Care Foundation. Also in 2008, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, she used the tax ID number of a Missouri City nonprofit called Bandade Animal Rescue.
Purcell made money from boarding fees, but Spindletop was supported almost entirely by donations. The Press found no evidence of Purcell supplementing Spindletop's reserves through home-based businesses; the only record was a business filing from 2008 showing Purcell as a contact for something called Latino Distributor, which operated out of a South Carolina trailer park.
Purcell also had the good fortune, from a business perspective, of befriending Zandra Anderson, who offered pro-bono legal services for Spindletop, and who also acted as a "refuge consultant." Anderson claimed to have adopted two Spindletop dogs, but the two women also shared another love: breeding and showing dogs.
It was a surprising hobby for someone like Purcell, who devoted her life to rescue. But it was in keeping with Anderson's alliance with the Texas-based Responsible Pet Owners Alliance, a coalition of kennel club cornballs and backyard breeders operating under the belief that animal overpopulation is a myth.
Having established credibility in relatively short order, Purcell had no problem collecting funds in times of crisis, like the March 2004 fire.
In a plea for donations issued three days after the inferno, Purcell explained that two dogs had been killed and three were "badly burned." She asked for $700 to rewire the kennel that caught fire, as well as another one.
"The cause of the fire has been pinpointed to the damage that was sustained from the many floods that we have dealt with over the last couple of years," Purcell wrote.
But Corrente, Purcell's now-estranged husband, says it was pre-existing shoddy wiring that caused the fire. He figured this out when, months after the fire, he came to work at Spindletop.
"I inspected it the best I could, and it was really because the buildings were old and antiquated and the electrical systems weren't up to handling the required load for keeping the dogs cool," Corrente says. He adds that "they were always blowing a circuit breaker, and they were always having electrical problems."
Corrente swears that Purcell lived and breathed for the dogs in her care. In fact, he says, she cared more for the dogs than for their relationship.
Corrente liked dogs well enough, but he never shared Purcell's no-kill philosophy. It was a big point of contention. This philosophical stalemate is perhaps best illustrated by Corrente's story about the day a Rottweiler tried to bite him and how Corrente decided to rectify the situation by caving in the dog's skull with a single strike of a ball-peen hammer. And that, Corrente says, wasn't even the only dog he killed. It's just the only one he remembers.
Purcell was stunned, but she didn't break up with him or order him off the property. After all, she had married a man convicted of sexual battery of a minor. (A subsequent rape charge in Louisiana was dismissed.) So Corrente remained her companion as well as a Spindletop employee.
Corrente says Purcell never condoned his killing of dogs. She loved them all, even the aggressive ones. Even the one he says lived in a cage for 13 years. Corrente would just as soon have put the poor bastard down. Not Purcell.
"All I can really tell you about Leah is that...she put those animals before herself," Corrente says. "Every dime — every single dime she made — she put towards taking care of those dogs."
Purcell certainly didn't put a dime toward property taxes at Spindletop's former location, which is why she fell into arrears, and ultimately foreclosure.
Purcell then relocated to Willis.
Purcell's cluelessness cursed the move from the beginning.
For one thing, according to a 2008 plea for donations, Purcell moved nearly 200 dogs to Willis before the grounds had a proper water supply. Although two wells had been dug to 100 feet, it turns out she got some "bum advice" and the wells should have been at 1,000 feet. She needed $15,000 for this "huge, out of the blue, emergency expense." This, despite Purcell's earlier claim that the Willis site "was under construction for two years and has state of the art accommodations for dogs."
Somehow, this did not raise a gigantic neon-red flag among Spindletop supporters. So the money poured in for Spindletop's wells. And the rain poured in, too. The new location was in a floodplain, and Purcell issued constant pleas after floods knocked down fences, damaged buildings and threatened the dogs' safety.
According to a 2008 e-mail, Hurricane Ike destroyed the perimeter fencing and supply tents, left a foot of mud in one building, blew away two exercise pens and hundreds of dog toys, and turned the grounds into a swamp-like haven for snakes. (As always, she reminded everyone that Spindletop was a nonprofit, and she passed off another rescue's tax ID number as her own.)
Donors may have missed, or ignored outright, the less than subtle clues that Purcell was ill-equipped to run Spindletop due to her efforts during Hurricane Katrina. Purcell rescued and helped find homes for approximately 500 dogs, forgoing sleep as she transported them from staging areas in Tylertown, Mississippi, and Metairie, Louisiana, to Spindletop and other shelters. If anything, the seeming impossibility of rescuing dogs in the wake of a disaster that made rescuing human beings a nightmare only energized Purcell. Her post-Katrina work was probably her defining moment.
It may have also been the moment when she believed she could do anything. For one thing, she seemed to figure out that one can rescue and house a ton of dogs as long as they're warehoused. If exercise, socialization and overall quality of life are not as important as mere existence, the number of lives saved is simply a matter of square footage.
In a September 2008 online update, Purcell explained how she had dealt with housing more than 150 dogs in advance of the fast-approaching Hurricane Ike: "We placed 43 dogs in my mother's house (we'll pretend she was thrilled about that) and the rest were moved into the boarding/evaluation kennel in the front of the property, which is normally an indoor/outdoor kennel that holds 24 dogs. Given the situation with Ike, all dogs were crated and stacked in order to accommodate additional dogs."
Although donations again poured in, it appears that Spindletop was also staying afloat because of Leah Purcell's mother, Louise Purcell. In trying to save the enterprise her daughter staked her reputation on, she overextended herself. Louise filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and the bank subsequently repossessed the Windfern property and a Ford Excursion that was Purcell's only mode of transportation.
Louise and Leah Purcell and April Longhurst lived hand to mouth. It cost thousands of dollars a month to feed the dogs and pay the staff, and Purcell only compounded the problem by accepting more dogs. She'd get between $700 and $900 in up-front boarding fees, far less than the dogs would cost her in the long run.
According to ex-employee Zach Parry, who says he started working at Spindletop in December 2011, dogs were squeezed into every nook and cranny, including four Rottweilers stuffed into the wells' pump house. He says the dogs living in Purcell's house, as well as in a kennel behind it, got the most attention, but that many dogs left their cages only once a day, for the five minutes it took to clean the crates. But the crates in the Morgan building, he says, weren't cleaned often enough.
"That was by far the worst building," he says. "The smell, when you went in there in the morning, first thing, it was absolutely horrid...the smell of ammonia, you couldn't even be in there for 30 seconds, I mean, without wanting to gag." A temperamental air-conditioning unit kept the building blisteringly hot.
Purcell's longtime friend (and ex-boyfriend) Charles Estep has one word to describe Parry: Scumbag. Specifically, a scumbag with a grudge. Estep thinks Parry may have had a beef with Purcell because the kind of people who get paid to clean up after dogs are the kind of people who can't get jobs anywhere else, and sometimes you have to "ride roughshod" over them.
"She cares more about those animals out there than she cares about herself," Estep says. He says the dogs were never mistreated and the cages were always clean. He believes that everyone who claims to care about the dogs they left in Purcell's care is doing so simply for show. He says that, many times, these people "drop the dogs [off] and they disappear, and that's it." (This runs counter to statements by the people the Press talked with who said they did attempt to determine that Spindletop was a good placement, but that they were shown only the parts of the property Purcell wanted them to see.)
Estep's claim is not reflected in the batch of e-mails between Purcell and Spindletop clients reviewed for this story. For one thing, Purcell accepted dogs from all over the country (there was even a dog sent from Japan after the 2011 tsunami), making regular visits difficult. For another, many of these people never hesitated to fulfill Purcell's incessant requests for cash.
Those who did insist on visiting dogs they'd left — a privilege Purcell allowed only by appointment — were often given excuses as to why visits were not possible at the time. Eventually, Purcell seems to have completely left the reservation and decided to curb this problem by telling some people their dogs had been adopted when they had not been.
As for all the media coverage on the seizure and the allegations of neglect, Estep believes reporters and bloggers are simply on a witch hunt.
"You people are a bunch of scumbags," he says, "and I know you — I've been told about you...In fact, if I was to guess right, I'd say you're a liberal. You're a Democrat, aren't you?"
This logical pattern of reasoning also extends to Estep's eschewing of evidence that Purcell used other organizations' tax ID numbers.
"If that's true, then why ain't the IRS going after her? That's a bunch of bullshit," he says. Then, in an apparently rhetorical challenge, Estep stated, "You're a liar...Show me the proof."
Rick Wagner, another ex-boyfriend, was willing to discuss the situation in less hostile terms. He seconded Estep's claim that Purcell genuinely cared about the dogs.
"This girl lives and breathes the welfare of animals," he says. "That's all she does, day and night. That's why we broke up...She couldn't leave the animals alone."
Wagner also discounts Parry's allegations that the dogs were neglected. In fact, he says, it was the polar opposite — the dogs were spoiled to an almost disturbing level.
"It disgusts me the way...the poverty that she put herself in for the good of these animals. I mean, she has no money," he says.
But Wagner also says that Montgomery County law enforcement had it out for Spindletop from day one. Officers constantly came out to the property to check out the dogs for no other reason, Wagner surmises, than harassment. He says it would have been one thing if their incessant visits had resulted in any sort of citations or orders to do anything with the dogs, but it seemed to Wagner that their only intent was to be a thorn in Purcell's side. (Tim Holifield, the Precinct 3 Constable who led the Spindletop investigation and seizure, and who subsequently became the county's chief animal control officer, did not respond to requests for comment.)
Estep also says law enforcement had checked on Spindletop in the months before the seizure. He says one officer, responding to a complaint, asked to inspect the Morgan building.
"We didn't have to let him on the property without a warrant, but we let him on the property," Estep says.
According to Estep, the officer found nothing wrong, and went on his way.
"That was a terrible accident that happened out there," Estep says. "And I don't give a shit what...anybody says."
What remains unclear is how 38 dogs baked to death in a building without any of the staff realizing it.
For one thing, it appears that, for perhaps the first time in a while, Purcell had the resources to ensure the building was properly cooled. In March, three months before the incident, two Spindletop supporters bought two window air-conditioning units, which someone from Spindletop picked up from a Home Depot in Conroe.
In April, Spindletop received $6,900 in cash. The records for this influx of cash are contained in wire-transfer receipts provided to the Press by another of Purcell's ex-boyfriends, a retired law-enforcement officer living in Louisiana.
So why wasn't their air conditioning running in there?
It appears that much of the debt Louise included in her filing was Spindletop-related. As Purcell's proxy, Louise owed hundreds of thousands of dollars. She even owed PayPal, which is how many people donated prior to 2012, and which is why Purcell subsequently directed donors to a PayPal account belonging to the ex-boyfriend. The ex would then wire the money to Conroe, where it would be collected by Spindletop employees.
Also unclear is exactly whose dogs perished in the Morgan building. Purcell and Zandra Anderson have declined to issue names of the deceased, or to individually notify the unfortunate lot and spare them the agony of the unknown.
Strangely, Anderson herself cited the agreed judgment entered into after the seizure of the dogs between the county court and Purcell as a reason she could not inform one woman of the whereabouts of her dog, George. However, there is nothing in the agreement procedurally barring Anderson from disclosing the whereabouts of any dogs.
What makes Anderson's silence on George's whereabouts especially troublesome is the fact that Anderson herself sought the transfer of George from his foster home to Spindletop. She also did this for George's sister, Georgia, who at the time of the seizure was nursing five puppies.
Tammy Lorkovic says Anderson contacted her in April 2012 after seeing Lorkovic's online pleas to find a home for George and Georgia. She says Anderson praised the virtues of Spindletop and said that Purcell happened to have just enough space for the dogs. (It turns out that, at least within the last year, this was Spindletop's standard operating procedure. There was always "just one last spot" available.)
According to Lorkovic, Anderson said the cost of transporting, boarding and altering the dogs would all be taken care of by a Spindletop sponsor. In an April 5 e-mail to Lorkovic, Anderson wrote, "I am so happy that these beauties are being saved! Woof!"
Lorkovic says of Anderson: "She initiated it. She solicited it. She got it financed. She facilitated it."
Immediately after the seizure, Lorkovic e-mailed Anderson asking about the whereabouts of George and Georgia. Anderson took this opportunity to explain, to Lorkovic's bewilderment, that Georgia was "pregnant when she came and too far along for safe spay. She had puppies." (Lorkovic alleges that when she reclaimed Georgia, the dog was bleeding vaginally, as well as suffering from a variety of bacterial infections.)
By July 23, Lorkovic still had no information about George. "Is he safe somewhere...please let me know...I can't handle this agony," Lorkovic e-mailed Anderson.
Anderson responded, "I am not sure where he is but he was removed long before the seizure occurred I have learned."
Despite Anderson's early assurances to the Press that she'd speak for this story, Anderson ignored questions about the whereabouts of George and other missing dogs.
At the temporary shelter on the Montgomery County fairgrounds in late July, Carol Goodrich is waiting to reclaim three dogs she brought to Spindletop in the past nine months.
Rescue volunteers, Humane Society staff and law-enforcement officials buzz about among the 270-odd dogs spread out between a large, air-conditioned building and a fan-cooled set of concrete holding pens. They walk with the focus and speed of people who haven't slept in days and are fueled by second, third and fourth winds.
Goodrich has been reunited with two of the three dogs, gorgeous wirehaired pit mix siblings Jasper and Ivy, and is waiting for a worker to find their mother, Maddie. The Humane Society and county officials have implemented a rigorous verification process that prevents owners from looking for dogs themselves. It's a necessary but frustrating precaution against dogs being relinquished to the wrong hands.
It takes five more days before Maddie and she are reunited. At first Goodrich didn't even recognize the dog. They'd only been together a short amount of time, and Maddie has short white hair and a lack of coloring that makes her resemble about a million other dogs.
Purcell still has her own dogs. After the seizure, the county relinquished 11 dogs proved to belong to Purcell and Louise, who still live on the Spindletop property.
In the weeks following the seizure, Purcell has maintained a low profile. Perhaps concerned about possible criminal charges, she hasn't made any public statements. It might also be that, after having her reputation destroyed and losing everything she's worked for, she has nothing to say.
Or maybe something altogether different is running through Purcell's head. According to Lorkovic, her friend's husband spotted Purcell at a store in early August. Lorkovic says the man asked Purcell how she was dealing with the aftermath. He didn't quite know what to make of her alleged response. He told his wife as soon as he got home.
Purcell, he said, chalked it up to a simple "misunderstanding." He said Purcell told him something even stranger: I'll get my dogs back.
I love dogs and have rescued several pits and trained them. But stories like this one make me feel like many dogs are better off humanely killed than living a life of slow torture.
Maybe you can do a follow-up story...apparently Ms. Purcell has opened up shop again: http://www.txcanineequinesolutions.us/. Examiner story: http://www.examiner.com/article/she-s-back-spindletop-back-open-for-business
Question is --will The Humane Society of the United Statesput up their own money to support these dogs or will they just grab limelight and let all the local Texas shelters hace to care for them...or potentially supporting euthanasia which seems to be their answer of choice??
The HSUS WILL help in pulling dogs from such a situation but then will do nothing afterwards...no monies (and their coffers are huge) to the local shelters so that counties have to do this on their own. ANd sad to say in the past YES they have moved dogs elsewhere just to have them euthanized.
This whole situation is sad...even that these dogs had to be there in the first place. Dogs should be a commitment for life or do not get one just to send it to someone else or worse - let it loose and then make it someone else who cares about animals decision have to take it to a rescue.
Have no knowledge of the owners at all. SO many times people begin these rescues meaning only good and then get inundated with too many dogs and too much overall physically and emotionally. Until people do rescue they have no idea what this involves.
The County may have called the HSUS, but that does NOT mean that the HSUS won't use this for money-grubbing purposes. They were on-scene. When HSUS gets involved things get bad for the animals in their care. HSUS actively advocates for the murder of dogs - why would you think that giving them dogs is a good idea?
@michelleadamstsi There were over 278 dogs.. They helped with valuable resources like money, staff, equipment, got others to step up like Petsmart charities.
They sent people who cared for the dogs and their behavior exemplified this..Who else could do this who else volunteered to do this? They didn't move 45 dogs up north to on a five day road trip just to euthanize them.. Who else has offered to take the 45 pits locally in Houston? don't get me wrong many Rescues stepped up to take dogs but there many left. I think you are wrong on painting the HSUS with a broad brush.
@michelleadamstsi I didn't say I thought giving them dodgs was a good idea, I only said they did not just show up on their own, they were called in by Montgomery County. And if you're so concerned about these dogs, how many did you rescue?
First, I would like to say thank you so much Craig for writing this article. I have been overwhelmed with emotions since the truth has come out about Spindletop and all of the neglect and abuse. I am forever grateful to you for writing about this.
After reading several of these comments here and other places, it makes me sick to think that anyone would even try and defend that loser Leah Purcell...she has a special place in hell. She was a huge liar and doesn't deserve any compassion or excuses, ever! There is no way in the world she could have ever truly cared about any of the dogs she had. Anyone that cares for animals would never leave them in deplorable conditions like she did.
I know, because she lied to me and my good friend. I took a dog there that some loser had dumped in my neighborhood, BUT I wanted to help this dog and NO, I could not keep him, because my landlord at the time would not allow pit bulls!!! After my good friend and I contacted numerous shelters and rescues, finally Spindletop could help! Leah, said she had "one last opening" and for $750 she promised the dog would get neutered and he would get training and they would work really hard to get him adopted out. She also said I could come and visit him by appointment, I could also come and volunteer, take him for walks or down to the lake and take other dogs to the lake too.... YEAH RIGHT! When I drove out to Spindletop to drop the dog off and I first met Leah, I was a little taken back by her physical appearance, she looked nothing like the picture I had found of her online sitting with her 5 dogs, she was now very frail and missing a front tooth and it also seemed odd that through our entire visit, she held a drink in her hand and smoked cigarettes, but I thought I shouldn't judge her, she must just put all of her money into these dogs! YEAH RIGHT!! I was also a little concerned why I couldn't see where the dog would be sleeping, but she was a good liar and told me "I would show you the dog's kennels, but I don't want to get them all riled up, because they were about to eat dinner." She totally assured me that he would be fine. It also bothered me that she was constantly telling the dog "don't jump on me....don't jump on me" how can someone train a dog if they were so afraid of it jumping on them???? Well, of course she explained she had some kind of blood disease and didn't want to get scratched, but that she had people there to help with the dog training..... So I left him...but my friend and I called and e-mailed her constantly to check on him. She would tell us "oh he's doing great"..."he's getting along good", "he has a new girlfriend!" We kept asking if he'd been neutered yet, but she constantly had an excuse and the answer was always "NO, not yet", she said she usually takes two dogs to get fixed at a time, but that the transmission in her truck was broke and she was in the process of getting it fixed, even though she did mentioned she was able to borrow a friend's car, but God forbid you try and transport two dogs in the backseat of a car??? NO, IT'S BECAUSE SHE WAS FULL OF CRAP!!! Several weeks went by hearing the same excuses as to why he had not been fixed yet and REMEMBER...you can't adopt a dog unless it's been fixed! So she didn't care about getting him adopted, she was just wasting time. Oh but she said she had taken him down to the lake for a swim and he met some people that were really interested in adopting him, but he would have to meet their dog first! YEAH, YOU FREAKIN' LIAR...just trying to set the stage so you could tell us the ultimate lie and say he'd been adopted?? FINALLY, I was able to get an appointment to go see him, every time I would ask, she was busy with this or that. So when I saw him, it had been a little over a month and HE LOOKED HORRIBLE!!! He was so out of touch, he had red marks and sores all over his body, he had feces stains on his butt and back and legs ***his hair sparkled when I had first taken him there*** but not anymore and he had lost so much weight. He was not the same dog! I knew I could not leave him there, so I contacted her telling her I wanted him back and a week later, I got him back, but the damage she and her workers did to him was done and I will never forgive them for this. I let another pit rescue know about this and I told everyone and anyone what happened. I have proof of what he looked like when I took him there and when I got him back. I have sent this proof to the authorities and to any politician that would listen... So I hope and pray this witch will be prosecuted to the fullest! She lied to all of us and took our money and I know for me it has caused a great deal of sadness and emotional stress and MOST OF ALL....the pain and torture she and her workers have put these innocent animals through is unforgivable!!! I HATE YOU LEAH PURCELL!!! And to all of the loser people in the world who abuse and neglect innocent animals, I WISH YOU NOTHING BUT THE WORST IN LIFE!
@bus2myheart Reading your story makes me sick to my stomach. I was fostering a pit that was pulled from death row in OH. She (Marnie) was transported to me in NJ to foster. After discovering she had a major heart murmur and a deformity of her heart, the lady responsible for the dog's care (Ellen Twigg-Patrick) decided she didnt want to shell out anymore money on my foster dog. The dog needed some training, she had some fear aggression. So Ellen said she had a good friend in TX who ran a pitbull rescue that would take Marnie in. She would train her and get her heart issues checked out. Leah told me Marnie was living in her house and was doing great with training. Pretty much exactly what you were being told about your dog, I was being told about my foster. I was told she had a "boyfriend" and a couple was interested in adopting her.
It was all bullshit. The rescue that took Marnie after the raid said that she was missing hair, had sores on her from being in a crate, her ear was bleeding, and that she was skinny. She left me in MINT condition. Marnie was there for a little over a year before the raid. She is now happy & recovering her health with her new family. But it still breaks my heart to think that she left my loving home and was sent to that hell hole because Ellen Twigg-Patrick said her good friend Leah would take good care of her.
The money issue is not amusing at all. The fact that HSUS advocates for the killing of abused animals is not amusing. Wayne Pacelle has a six figure salary and follows celebrities around like a star-struck, pubescent little girl. HSUS' past is important in this case because of what they do, just like the history of Spindletop is important. Someone could say I have "abused" my brand new rescue cat because he has a broken hip. It is not right or just, and it does nothing for animal rights, that I then must have enoiugh money to hire a lawyer, pay all the fines and fees and run the risk of going to jail and hving a criminal record for the rest of my life just simply to explain the fact that the cat was used for target practice by someone and then thrown into the dumpster that I pulled him out of. History is very important. HAS ANYONE EVER ASKED THEMSELVES WHY THE HSUS GETS TO PREENT THEIR SIDE OF THE STORY AND THE SUPPOSED ABUSE, HOARDER, WHOEVER THEIR TARGET IS AT THE TIME, DOES NOT GET TO PRSENT THEIR SIDE OF THE STORY UNLESS THEY HAVE THE MONEY TO DO SO? WHY ARE THE ATTACKERS AUTOMATICALLY ASSUMED TO BE RIGHT ALL THE TIME IN EVERY CASE. Explain that - you can't. I see that I have already made several points here. BTW, this is the State of Texas - and no one gets a fair animal abuse trial in Texas, no one ever has. Don't give me names of people who did - they don't exist. Good night.
@michelleadamstsi Well I don't think you were at the fairgrounds and saw the dogs.. with over 300 dogs and limited manpower and facilities Leah was in fact hoarding .. She clearly could not take care that number properly .. if you had seen her property, had dealt with her and still believe that she was treating these dogs properly then you are delusional.. She is in the wrong. The HSUS in this case did the right thing when asked for help by Montgomery County
@craig.m: I am suggesting pretty much what you said. Nice how you have tried Spindletop owners in the media and on the internet and DARE to tell me to confine my postints to this specific case. I will bet the lives of all my dogs that many of the spindletop dogs will end up dead by the hand of HSUS based on HSUS multiple past experiences. The raid was done to get money for HSUS. It feeds their donation machine. Since, no one, and especially not YOU, are willing to consider any of the good that Spindletop has done in the past, I see no reason to confine myself to the present situation when discussing HSUS. You don't get it both ways - not with me, at least. Money is the ultimate that this raid is about and not a single one of you can prove otherwise. Time will tell. I'll bet every one of you who don't believe me $25,000 each that the next time the HSUS sticks their ugly head up out from under whatever rock they hide under that we hear about the Spindloetop raid and all the horrible abuse and how the dogs were burned and barbecued and trained to fight and run over with a go-cart, and oh by the way, we need YOUR DONATION TO CONTINUE OUR WORK.
@michelleadamstsi You really don't know what you are talking about..
@michelleadamstsi Do you know the whereabouts of the missing dogs from Spindletop since you are their advocate? The fosters and city shelters who entrusted them to Spindletop's care are being told they were relocated. They are not being told to where. There has not been a list of names released of the dogs who died in their most recent accident.
It is actually very difficult to get the SPCA or the HSUS to act on reports of neglect because they require so much proof and the neglect/abuse has to be very significant in its nature. The volunteers who are trained in disaster rescue to help with these seizures are independent from the organization and are often working in filthy/unsanitary conditions for free. Many are associated with legit rescue groups. They would have no reason to keep quiet if they felt the animals were well off where they were. Does your conspiracy theory include the volunteers?
@sammie craig.m: You have been told what is going on and how the HSUS acts, so we will no longer bother with trying to educate you because you simply do not want to learn. Sammie: The same goes for you. I NEVER said that the HSUS asked Leah for money. I have said repeatedly that the HSUS uses places like Spindletop to raid kin order to get an unsuspecting and often willing public for money. I specifically said that SPCAs, ESPECIALLY IN HOUSTON, make a living off resale of seized animals, from fines on the owner, from donations from the public and from monetary awards by the court, which have been in the tens of thousands in the past. We will not waste out time with any more of you who wilfully ignore the tactics of supposed authorities which have and will eventually hurt the dogs in question. You seem to want to isolate Spindletop because you know I am right. This incident cannot be taken just standing on its own, because there are and have been too many raids like it. Check the news next week because there will be another one. The dogs look good, so where is the abuse? HSUS says there was abuse, so small and weak minds BELILEVE there MUST BE abuse. Now, I have work I have to do, so I will respond no more to you. Unfortunately, for the animals, that is exactly the kind of thing, other than the MONEY, that keeps these raids going. You re complicit. And you get to run around and say one of your best buds was part of the raid, so therefore people should think you know something you don't. Now, what was I saying about being self-important and having people think you are some sort of expert? Thanks for making my case.
@michelleadamstsi I know many people don't agree with how the HSUS operates and I don't even see where that is an issue here. The HSUS were not the ones that were behind the bust at Spindletop, it was Montgomery County. Obviously Montgomery County had been to Spindletop many times before getting evidence. They knew how many dogs where there and they knew that they didn't have the ability to handle all those dogs without help so they called in the HSUS and AFF to help. So sorry, the conspiracy theory isn't working here.
@michelleadamstsi So you think the volunteers have misrepresented the condition of the dogs from this seizure so that the HSUS can collect funds to save animals who are not in harm's way? Again, I ask you what the volunteers' motivation would be? You are focused on the HSUS while this blog is in regards to Spindletop's dogs specifically. I will not exchange personal insults with you or justify my interest in Angel's whereabouts to you.
@michelleadamstsi Michelle, I was confining it to the Spindletop dogs because that is the focus of the feature story. I have seen others critical of HSUS suggest that the Spindletop dogs will be killed because of something HSUS may have advocated in 2009, etc., which is a specious argument. No one has been able to present a scintilla of evidence that HSUS has killed, will kill, or wants to kill the Spindletop dogs. So therefore, I was asking you if you had anything to offer other than conjecture.
It's also kind of amusing, this "money" theory that's been bandied about ad nauseam. I'm not aware of HSUS asking for one red cent to help the Spindletop dogs, but Leah Purcell constantly hit up good-hearted people for thousands upon thousands upon thousands of dollars for decades, with the money apparently disappearing into a black hole. Not one person hesitated to open their billfolds when Leah Purcell asked for money -- and now some of these people don't know what became of the dogs they left in her care. How this is completely overlooked by conspiracy theorists is shameful, and, I think, a real punch in the gut to people who are agonizing over such betrayal.
I have personally worked in people kennels for years...I mean nusring homes. As far as I am concerned, live is not worth living when you don't have companionship and freedom. Not ending life is a noble ideal...but dear lord take me or give me the means to take myself if and when the time comes.
Life without love has very little value and I'm so grateful I'm not a dog.
I have a no kill and a no turn away policy at my Ferret rescue. I limit myself at no more than 60 ferrets at one time. Thats all I can care for and house at one time. Some ferrets and their owners have to wait for a spot to open up. While they wait I get what info I can on the ferrets and I try to find a home or another rescue that may be able to take them sooner. Lots of people run "no kill" rescues and know their limits.
@ferretfreakx4 If you limit yourself to no more than 60 ferrets qt one time, AND have a no kill and no turn away policy...I'm confused as to how that works. Say you have 60 ferrets and someone wants to surrender one, which would make 61. You don't kill one to make room (I would not either) but you can't turn the ferret away, either. Doesn't that bring you to 61?
You have the "No Kill" mentality to thank here. Wonder how many dogs Bett Sundermeyer had at Spindletop? Notice that the "No Kill" community is mighty quiet about this. And it should be considering how "No Kill" promoted and used this house of horrors. This is only one that has been caught, there are others, all aided and abetted by "No Kill".
No Kill is a force for good. Not sure Bett Sundermeyer had any dogs there, but many many many rescues did send dogs there. I don't know all the rescues involved but would imagine some were kill and some no kill.
@tnr4kitties Really? Force for good? Tell that to all the shelters that tried it and failed. http://www.opposingviews.com/i/society/animal-rights/no-kill-movement-savior-or-scam
@tnr4kitties Duh, can you say more strays on the streets? Won't be the first time either that ACOs have been told to leave them on the streets. Doug Rae, proclaimed to be the best NK shelter director ever by Nathan Winograd, told his ACOs to leave them on the streets so the numbers would not be affected. The ACOs reported this to the officials and Rae was fired. And as for Pat Dunaway, have you seen any evidence at all from Winograd to prove his accusations against her? In fact, the shelter he claims she supports in it's cruelty has been investigated more times than you can count and each time it came up smelling like a rose, including an in depth investigation by a Grand Jury. So you are doing nothing more than repeating Winograd's lies about this woman.
@macawluver Pat Dunaway? Really? She has some sort of axe to grind. I live in Austin and I'm not sure how not killing dogs would make dog bite incidents go up other than more dogs == more dog bites.
About half the dogs are still unclaimed. Montgomery County has 2 pages of photos of these victims on Flickr. Below are the links:
Hoping we can use this media spotlight to get these dogs to a happier chapter very soon!
Thank you, Houston Press, for not forgetting about these dogs.
@susannahooper Wow - those dogs look GREAT!
@susannahooper all of these dogs look great. none underweight or dull coats a couple do not look happy about their "handlers' but that is probably because they don;t know them Spindletop has lots of room why not get them go back there and get a massive amount of money and volunteers to keep them looking like they do now. oh wait.. better to kill them right?
The restrictions on who can take the dogs are legion..only 501 C 3's.. no "private person" can "adopt" one.. why not?
@bestuvall Oh my heavens! You cannot be serious? Did you see Isabel's before and after pictures or the pictures of the feces covered rusted crates? Some things are worse than death such as being a dog and being crated 24/7 crate on top of crate. Urine burns on feet, being breed etc. Dogs do not enjoy living in filth. 6 dogs required immediate IV hydration. Just shoot me before you do that to me and I am not a dog. Dogs like to feel the sun on their faces and enjoys smells other than there fellow kenneled neighbors urine. If you want to adopt a dog speak to a 501C3 organization who is involved and leave your contact info. No one wants these dogs to be let down yet again.
@ic4shoes LOLO.. very easy to find places that import dogs from all over the world .. try "save a sate" to start "potcake dogs " from the 'Islands for another try "hancock maine shelter imports dogs from Guam"
The following quote was taken from the web site of the Humane Society of Snohomish County, a Seattle-area importer of dogs from Taiwan. "By saving Taiwan dogs, we do not feel this takes away from saving a dog at our own shelters. The majority of dogs from Taiwan are small and our own shelters do not have many small dogs" and
"The Buddy Dog Humane Society in Massachusetts shares the anti-breeder sentiment and offers a similar rationale on their web site: "Many people ask why we are taking dogs from Puerto Rico. The answer for us is simple. Most of the dogs are small, usually under 30 pounds, thus enabling Buddy Dog to find many adopters looking for a smaller dog, a new companion, without going to a pet store or breeder."
so in other words while "pit bulls" die in "shelters" they are bringing in dogs to fill a "demand" wow that is what a pet store does..
so no I am not "insane " but importing dogs from other counties and territories while dogs die her for "space" does make me crazy
@michelleadamstsi Michelle, are you suggesting that HSUS has killed, or plans on killing, any Spindletop dogs for the heck of it? If so, could you provide any evidence? And again, I'm specifically asking about Spindletop dogs -- not anything HSUS may have advocated in the past.
@bestuvall You are truly insane. The USA IMPORTS dogs from other countries????? Your leader, Nathan Winograd is a swindler and a crook. People like you make his living very easy. So sad for the animals who bear the brunt of this farce and suffer at "no kill" places like Swindletop Ranch.
@michelleadamstsi I have a friend who was deployed on this seizure. They are not paid. They are volunteers. There are only 30+ dogs still seeking safe placement from those seized. None have been put to sleep.
@sammie How do we know where those "feces covered rates" actually came from? Why, indeed, did the HSUS not go in and set up volunteers and a donation program for Spindletop? Because it is 1) better to get all the money for yourself, especially if you are HSUS; 2) better to kill the dogs they can't place, HSUS has been advocating for the murder of supposedly abused dogs and cats for YEARS. They've just figured out how to MAKE MONEY AT ITS. And yes, I am dead serious - so don't ask.
@ballsr4fetching ballsr4fetching - You cannot talk to this person. He/she does not begin to have a grasp of the overpopulation problem. Continues to produce more animals while blaming the shelters for not stockpiling them like Spindletop did. Bestuvall either truly has no clue, has never walked a shelter or does not care. The acts he/she defends are not defensible. The entire no kill movement draws breeders to it like flys in an effort to excuse their reprehensible creation of this problem. I have continued to follow this to see if there was any word on a particular dog. I do not believe this person knows anything and is just being an annoyance. I am no longer addressing the comments made and ridiculous attempts to justify what happened at Spindletop and breeding. Supply/demand is a simple concept that any moron can grasp, or so I thought prior to reading the insane rants by Bestuvall.
succumb to illness?? huh? if they succumb to illness that might be because the shelters don't vaccinate them.. or I guess you might say "succumb to illness" is another way of saying killing them for space. No puppy dies because of me as for not breeding I suppose you mean you hope I have no children.. sorry..my business not yours.. just like my dogs are my business.. not yours.
If you actually understand no kill or have read any of Winograds works or attended any of his lectures then you know he believes as I do there is no "overpopulation" of dogs in the USA.. We "import Thousands for doge every year from other countries and places outside of the USA.. why do you suppose we do that?
here is a the book about the No Kill book by Winograd.. the father of the No Kill movement.. perhaps you could take a few days to read it:
Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America By Nathan J. Winograd
the blog will make interesting reading for many of you as well I am sure:
HSUS had every opportunity to help these dogs BEFORE this debacle.. can you tell me why they did not do that?
You really haven't a clue, do you? Most of your statements confirm your ignorance of the ways of rescue, shelters, no kill and pretty much anything that you typed! Just go to some other blog and act like you know everything ... you are truly ONE IGNORANT HUMAN BEING!! As for your "being breed is not worse than death" comment ... go to the shelter and tell that to all of the puppies that will succumb to illness and die because of ignorant people like you ...... let's just hope that "you can't breed"!!
@bestuvall As compared to suffocating in an improperly ventilated building containing too many animals or burning to death?
@sammie really I should shoot you if you need fluids? I would guess that sitting the in the sun for 10 hours in a crate while chaos is going on around you might make you nervous.. and uncomfortable Crates get rusty.. does not mean they are not functional..HSUS wants to portray the worst possible situations in order to raise MONEY and even then they had to show dogs that looked perfectly fine.. in good weight with nice shiny coats..does it not bother you that HSUS did and does not use any of their money to help BEFORE these situations become dire? That they never send money or volunteers until they can get MONEY and show how horrible PEOPLE are..HSUS had every opportunity to help these dogs by giving money and sending volunteers to help BEFORE this happened but did they? you can answer that..
and "being breed" is not "worse than death" Why is no "person" able to have one of theses dogs.. why only "charities"... a good home is a good home..
Sammie, do you know that those dogs were not allowed out of their crates to pee, poop, were not allowed to be fed or watered the entire time the HSUS was at ST? They arrived early in the AM and did not allow the workers to let the dogs out for their morning potty break....so of course the dogs would be covered in feces and urine and would be dehydrated. BTW, This went on for more than 10 hours.
I am looking at the photos posted here of the dogs in crates at the temp shelter. They are in plastic crated in a room with no air conditioning. How's that better? At least at ST they were in wire ones in AC.
BTW, Wire crates will rust with age, that doesn't mean squat. Doesn't mean they are rusted shut. Just means they are rusted.
Finally there is NO proof that those dogs lived their whole lives in those crates.
@susannahooper Isn't that a tragedy? You would think that this would have been thought through before taking the dogs. They should have thought about what was going to happen to unclaimed dogs. Where were they going to go. But NO, that wasn't important. Was was important was the Media Coverage and the money the HSUS got for the bust in way of donations but the suckers who believe them.
This is a fiasco and intolerable cruelty. Those dogs are innocent and wasted by human hands. How can people that are supposed to have "Dominion" over animals, and care for a beautiful creation given to us for a friend, a hunting partner etc., be so heartless. Where is there common sense. I dare to question the conscience of the people over this so-called "refuge." Is there a conscience or has iit been seared, is there greed? Something is wrong in that person's heart to do this to animals that had no choice or control over their own destiny, and were placed under the care of a human that is supposed to be of greater knowledge and have the capability to reason. Sickening to say the least. I feel my blood boil over things like this, and at the same time tears in my eyes for those beautiful creatures. God help us !!!!
"By July 23, Lorkavic still had no information about George. "Is he safe somewhere...please let me know...I can't handle this agony," Lorkavic e-mailed Anderson."
really?? then why didn't he keep the dogs . then he would not have to worry about where they went.. they would be safe at his home
@bestuvall Lorkavic is a shelter volunteer. You cannot keep them all personally! She did not turn her dogs over to Spindletop. Spindletop received $750 a dog to "train and prepare" for adoption. George and Georgia were in the training program there. Zandra came to Tammy and said there were donations for the dogs to come into the program and they accepted donation to vet, train and board. Not to breed and misplace them. Custody of neither of those dogs was to be permanent. Tammy has Georgia back as well as her PUPPIES! She was SUPPOSED to have been spayed! George was mysteriously relocated to an undisclosed location. He was not Spindletop's dog to "relocate". Where are all these missing animals who are unaccounted for? None of this disturbs you???
accidental breedings take place at "shelters" all of the time.. Look at Dan Christensens dogs.. ( look it up) his dogs were seized.. ( he was found not guilty but it almost cost him his life thanks to HSUS)many of his dogs were bred while away from him.. it happens.. when you give your dogs over to someone else you there by relinquish your ability to know what is happening to them.. when you board your dogs you have no idea if the posh doggie hotel will burn down.. or some other tragedy will occur. I do think that if you rescue and you cannot keep the dogs then when you give them over to the care of someone else you rights stop there.. even if you have paid.. "ready for "adoption" does that mean the owner was to go back and get the dog and then sell it.. or was Spindletop to place the dog?do you consider SPTP to be a "board and train" facility what disturbs me is how this article makes accusations with backup and the many people wh are ready to "hang em high" while calling themselves saints because they "rescue" it was an easy out to take the dogs you say you "rescued' to someplace else and then pat yourself on the back and leave the hard work to someone else. Then when things get tough swoop in ( like HSUS is famous for) and seize and "resce".. why not HELP.. It baffles me.. why would a charity that is supposed to help animals want to seize them.. that part does not baffle me.. helping raises NO money while pointing out how horrible PEOPLE are does..
@janelmw I have heard that the dog walkers at Montgomery County are allowing dogs to accidentally breed, resulting in litters later .
@janelmw LOl.. really? like the ones you speak of that kill dogs from being a kennel for too long
I'veo been in animal welfare for 15 years and know of NO reputable shelter or rescue that allows breeding! Not sure where you are getting your information. Maybe I'm just incredibly lucky to have encountered only reasonably well run, 501c3 organizations.
@just.the.facts you are so correct thankfully many many more people are catching on these "animal rights groups" who hoard donor money and dupe donors..would make a great article Craig!
@bestuvall And the HSUS may have a 501c3 but are a bunch of crooks. But people are still stupid enough to support them without doing research.
@sammie anecdotal comments do not data make .
.but yes I blame groups like HSUS who have the ready cash to help many rescue groups and claim to do so when it is a lie.. their policy in the past has been to kill all pit bulls found in "fight situations" they changed only when pressured after the Vick case.. and they still support that dog killer so yes i blame them.. while you may not be a candidate for sainthood .. others here have claimed that title... while demeaning others who have a different point of view.. SPTP has a great piece of land.. and a place where many dogs could be sheltered.. why not use it?/ why put these dogs in concrete runs at a fairground with no place to get out.. instead of keeping them where they were and allowing volunteers to help.. and giving money to make sure the dogs are well cared for.."sheltering in place" is a great idea.. and could save tons of money and dogs..
@bestuvall Yes, Spindletop claimed to be a board and train facility. They were obviously not a rescue. They had no 501C3 and yet claimed to be when begging for donations well after theirs had been withdrawn. Hummm, would that be fraud? They claimed to have placed dogs who they did not place. Again, I ask you about Angel's fate? No one is claiming to be a saint. We do rescue in addition to working to fund those animals in our care and raising our families. We limit our intake on many different levels in an effort to serve the dogs in our care properly. You seem focused on redistributing blame to the HSUS, this article's author, shelters who bought into the promises Spindletop offered their animals in need and those who entrusted dogs to Leah's care. Accidental pregnancies do not happen in responsible rescue programs. It has never happened once within the two groups I volunteer with.
@bestuvall Is there any question at this point that bestuvall is Purcell? Stop shilling, witch.