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February 23--  We've received some emails from folks concerned about the plight of a Pit Bulldog who lives in the Five-Points area of north Toombs County.  Kathy Bradford at The Advance newspaper in Vidalia received some of the same messages which led to a frontpage article in the paper Wednesday. 

First, here's a copy of an email we received with accompanying photos of the dog's living conditions in late January.  Links on the email will lead you to some first-person accounts of what was found.

Then you'll see Kathy's account with a picture taken this week. It's obvious intervention by outside parties led the owner of the dog to improve her living conditions.  

EMAIL 

Animal Rescuers Gather National Support to Save "The Dog in the Box"

  February 22, 2011 - More than 18,000 people from all
> fifty states have called on Georgia officials to save a dog named
> "Alice," who was found imprisoned in a small box.
> Southern Comfort Animal Rescue, based in Wheeler County, Georgia,
> discovered a pit bull being kept in a box constructed of wood slats
> and tin. The group immediately began trying to gain custody of the
> dog. But the owner, Delois Hayward, refused, also turning down offers
> of free housing or veterinary care for the dog.
> Nina Ancharski, an independent animal activist, learned about the dog,
> and started a petition on Change.org, the world's fastest growing
> social change platform with more than three million monthly readers.
> The campaign, in support of Southern Comfort Animal Rescue's effort to
> save"the dog in the box," calls on Toombs County officials to grant
> the group custody of Alice and to charge the owner with animal
> cruelty.  "When I first saw the post on Facebook about a dog living in
> a box, it brought up every protective instinct I have about animals,"
> Ancharski said. "I couldn't stand by while Alice lived her life in a
> box. Those conditions were unacceptable, and I had to do something."
> She worked with Scott Bennett of Southern Comfort Animal Rescue to
> create the petition and network it through social media. "Keep the
> pressure on Toombs County and the City of Lyons," Bennett urged
> petition signers. "We won't back off until we get some kind of
> resolution." "The amount of support for Southern Comfort Animal Rescue
> and Alice is incredible," said Stephanie Feldstein, an Editor at
> Change.org. "This campaign has become larger than just one dog; it's about how we as a society treat animals. It's been an honor to support such an important campaign."
> The success of the petition is sure to shine a light on the nature and
> enforcement of the state's animal cruelty laws.  Toombs County Chief
> Magistrate, John "Chip" Matheson, has declined to bring animal cruelty
> charges against Hayward. According to Bennett, Judge Matheson claimed
> that there is no state law requiring the owner to take Alice to a vet
> or get her a rabies vaccination, and that she is a not a victim of
> neglect. 

{mosimage} But Bennett took photographs showing that the ground in the
> box was compacted with feces, and the dog's bucket of water was
> stagnant with a thick layer of algae.
> The rescuers were also told that the 6-year-old pit bull, who had no
> name before they found her, had spent most of her life in that box,
> and was fed a diet of white bread, with the occasional table scrap.
> Alice has never eaten dog food. Bennett contends that Ms. Hayward
> violated Georgia animal cruelty laws, which call for "humane care of
> animals," as well as rabies vaccination laws.
> Alice has recently been moved to a larger kennel and has visited a
> veterinarian, where she received her first rabies vaccination. While
> her situation has improved, activists want her relinquished to
> Southern Comfort Animal Rescue to get the care she needs. The rescue
> group is also calling for a full evaluation by an independent
> veterinarian to support their case in favor of animal cruelty charges being brought against Ms. Hayward.
> Alice lives where Vidalia onions are grown.  A boycott page has been
> started on Facebook.
> www.facebook.com/SaveAliceBoycottGeorgiaOnions
> In just a few days, we are nearly to 1500 members.  Pictures of Alice
> and her box can be viewed on the Boycott page.  Alice lives just a
> stone's throw away the same place where 77 healthy adoptable dogs were  killed in one day.
> What is happening in Toombs county?
> Petition: 
> http://www.change.org/petitions/save-alice-aka-the-dog-in-the-box
> CONTACT INFORMATION:
> Southern Comfort Rescue
> Glenwood, GA 30428
> (912) 373-5533
> www.socorescue.com/
> Boycott Page Contact:
> Tamara Barnes
> Eugene, OR
> The Cat's Pajamas Rescue
> www.thecatspjs.org
> 541-554-2837
> This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Authorities Find No Substance in Tales of

“Dog in the Box”

By Kathy D. Bradford,                         Associate Editor,            This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

            Last week, the tale of “Alice” went viral on the Internet and the pit bull from outside the city limits became known as “The Dog in the Box.”

            But, many of the details on the Worldwide Web aren’t as factual as they appear, according to Toombs County Magistrate Judge Chip Matheson and the official report filed by the Toombs County Deputy Wallace Thompson. Matheson said the deputy found no reason to file any charges against 77-year-old Bennie Ray Spikes, who was caring for the dog, or Spikes’ daughter Delois Hayward, who is the owner.

            Matheson said Scott Bennett came to his office on February 9 wanting him to execute a warrant for animal cruelty against Spikes. Bennett said the dog was being “mistreated” because of its living conditions. Matheson said there was no evidence of cruelty and told Bennett he would not issue a warrant in the case.

            Bennett is employed with Southern Comfort Rescue of Glenwood. Terry Wolf is listed on the Secretary of State’s website as the owner of the rescue.

            The story of “Alice” is not related to the 77 euthanizations that  happened in the city of Lyons on January 20, even though many callers to various parties have indicated it as such.

            Cara Blackburn, who lives in Stillmore and works closely with Southern Comfort Rescue, said that the rescue is working with entities for support, but those organizations do NOT include the local Sweet Onion Animal Protection Society (SOAPS) or PETA.

            “SOAPS’  mission is to improve the lives of animals through education, assistance with sterilization to prevent unwanted litters, and rescue and re-homing of dogs and cats,” said Therisa Ingley, CEO of SOAPS. “We are not a law enforcement agency and we do not investigate instances of animal mistreatment.  SOAPS has not been asked nor have we volunteered to assist with any part of the ‘dog in the box’ situation.  It is my understanding that the incident was reported to the appropriate authorities and it is now in their hands.”

            An incident report was filed in the Toombs County Sheriff’s Office on February 1. The narrative in the report states that Bennett told Deputy Wallace, who went to the home on Five Points Road with him, that he could tell the dog had medical issues.

            A report from a local veterinarian states that “Lil Mama,” the dog’s real name, was seen in their office on February 3, six days before Bennett approached Judge Matheson about a warrant. The pit bull received a wellness exam, had a yearly rabies vaccine and other required inoculations. Lil Mama was  also checked for worms. A heartworm test was positive, and the vet instructed the family about treatment.

            “She certainly didn’t look like she was malnourished,” the vet said. “She had muscle structure, and maybe she did need some exercise, but it is obvious she was fed more than what is being told.”

            On the Internet, the story says that the dogs was only fed “white bread and honey buns and occasionally scraps.” According to the licensed vet, the six-year-old dog weighed 68.2 pounds, and her diet was marked as “good.”

            In fact, all categories on the exam card were  “normal” except that the dog who lives out-of-doors was “dirty.”

           {mosimage} Matheson said Compliance Officer Skipper Smith visited the home on February 15 and reported to the judge that everything appeared to be all right, adding that the dog was allowed out of the chain link pen on a lead for exercise.

            If you Google Alice on the Internet, you will find untold numbers of websites to research her, including one where donations are requested for “Alice’s Legal Fund.” The donations are adding up to thousands of dollars.

            On one of the websites, a listing of numerous contacts in Toombs County were listed including city of Vidalia officials, Vidalia Recreation Department, Toombs-Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, County Manager Doug Eaves and the Vidalia Onion Committee and many, many more. Lyons City Administrator Rick Hartley said Wednesday afternoon that he was being flooded with calls and emails, and Eaves reported on that same day that he had received over 4,500 emails.

            Hayward told The Advance Thursday evening that she didn’t know the story was so widespread on the Internet because she didn’t have access to a computer. She was distraught at a printout that she was presented, disputing many of the claims of the online article.

            Eaves has posted a Letter to Editor regarding the county’s official stand on the issue.  He and Matheson have concurred that as far as they are concerned, the matter is closed.