A Great Dane at the center of a custody dispute in Galveston County is now evidence in a criminal investigation, but Galveston officials are mum on who is being investigated, and for what.
A photo of the dog -- her face covered in blood -- taken from within the Galveston County animal shelter went viral Wednesday after the operator of a Great Dane rescue group posted it on Facebook. Shelter officials say the dog was brought to the shelter December 9 after a resident called, saying he had trapped the dog in his garage. The dog's ownership is unclear.
A statement on the Galveston County Animal Resource Center's website states that "Due to her aggression at the time, a catch pole was utilized," and that the dog injured herself while biting the catch pole.
When no owners stepped forward by December 12, local attorneys acting on behalf of the New York City-based Lexus Project stepped in and were granted temporary custody by a Galveston County judge.
But Jana Landry, an attorney with Lexus, tells us that when another attorney went to the shelter Friday afternoon to get the dog, that attorney was told the dog could not be released and was considered evidence in a criminal investigation.
Friday afternoon, the Galveston County Legal Department filed a motion to quash the temporary restraining order, as well as affidavits from Galveston County Health District CEO Harlan Mark Guidry and the District's animal services manager, Amber Adams, stating that they are aware "the Galveston County Sheriff's Office has an open investigation related to the treatment of the Great Dane and understands that the Great Dane must be safely and humanely maintained."
Adams also declared in her affidavit that "I have spoken with an organization named Dog Dynasty, which advises that the Great Dane is named Nina, and that Dog Dynasty owned and adopted Nina out to Debra Mahaffey."
However, Dog Dynasty owner Mike Glover told us Friday, shortly before the affidavits were filed, that "We never had it....we never even seen the dog," and only posted the dog's photo to try to find a potential adopter. Also, the group states on its Facebook that "We at Dog Dynasty only courtesy posted her picture in hopes of finding a foster/forever home."
He referred us to his wife, Paula, for more information, but she could not be reached.
We tried to reach Mike Glover after reading the affidavit stating that the dog had been adopted through his group -- apparently without anyone from Dog Dynasty ever laying eyes on her -- but the woman who answered the phone hung up on us. 'Cause that's how Dog Dynasty rolls.
We're just a little puzzled as to how this cluster started in the first place.
We're guessing it started when shelter operators sat around their office Monday, brainstorming ways to create a public relations nightmare that would make them look incompetent at best and shady at worst. Their "Eureka!" moment came after a blood-covered dog was allowed to languish in a cage long enough for someone to surreptitiously take a photo.
The photo found its way to Judy Jones, who runs a Great Dane rescue group. She tells us she called the shelter, asking for the dog -- now confusingly called both Nina and Fine Wine -- to be released into her group's care following the mandatory 72-hour hold. Jones says she feared that, if no one stepped forward to claim ownership, Nina would be put down.
Jones says her repeated requests fell on deaf ears, which played perfectly into the shelter officials' plan to achieve maximum stupidity. See, now that a gruesome photo had been leaked, there was a good chance for it to go viral and invite all kinds of scrutiny, and shelter officials could hang one of those "Mission Accomplished" banners from the ceiling.
Lo an behold, when Jones posted the photo, the shelter officials' dream came true. Then KHOU covered the story -- only shelter officials may have been disappointed because it focused more on an enigmatic character named Carl Townley, who showed up at the last minute, claiming that the dog really belonged with him and his fiancee.
Meanwhile, shelter officials posted a vague and poorly worded statement on the ARC's website. According to the statement, Nina was brought to the shelter December 9, at which time "The condition of the dog was viewed by a veterinarian on Monday." (We're not exactly sure what that means. Did the veterinarian stroll by the cage, hummin' a tune, and take a gander at ol' Nina's noggin? Or did he, like, examine her and stuff? Shelter officials won't elaborate).
Then, "on Tuesday, a claim of abuse was made and an investigator came to the ARC to view her. He attempted to take the dog to a vet, but could not without sedation due to her aggression." The dog was not "examined" by a veterinarian until Wednesday, at which point Nina was deemed to have "minor wounds to the lips and tongue and consistent with biting a catch pole."
According to officials, "She will not, and never was, going to be euthanized."
Officials also stated that the dog "was picked up with license tags and the ARC staff has been actively searching for the dog's owner," which conflicts with Carl Townley's claims.
We tried to get shelter officials to explain who initially claimed abuse, and why it appears that a dog that was bleeding from the mouth was not thoroughly examined for two days. We were first told we'd hear from a shelter supervisor as soon as they got off the phone. When we didn't (surprise) we called back and asked to be placed on hold. Then an administrative assistant named Michael Johnson got on the line and referred us to shelter spokesman Kurt Koopman.
So we called Koopman. Then we called him again. A few hours later, he emailed The Houston Press' general inbox with this: "As of this morning due to pending litigation I am unable to comment on the Great Dane in Texas City."
Thanks, Kurt! Bang-up job, guy.
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Still eager to find information, we attempted to reach a few members of the ARC's Animal Services Advisory Committee, including veterinarian Lori Honeycutt, who hung up on us. We also tried to reach two other members, including one for whom an incorrect number was listed, and another who was no longer actually on the committee.
That's one crack advisory committee right there. Keep up the good work!
The remarkable thing is, according to Landry of the Lexus Project, Nina now seems to be in good shape. We simply don't understand why Nina can't be "evidence" while temporarily hanging out in a loving home, rather than in the custody of the idiots who triggered this nonsense in the first place.
We hope to find out more soon, and will update as necessary.