Thursday, January 6, 2011

Struggling Ocala family must say goodbye to pet dog

By Austin L. Miller, Ocala.com

A young mother of three children facing dilemmas -- including the power being turned off, hospitalizations for herself and one child, and temporarily moving to a shelter -- made a tough choice when she left the family's pet dog behind.
After concerned neighbors reported to local agencies that the dog, Abby, a 1-year-old pit bull mix, had been abandoned inside the home, a resolution -- albeit a sad one for the family -- was reached Thursday when Melissa Brown turned the dog over to Marion County Animal Services.
Brown, 26, with tears streaming down her face, rubbed Abby gently Thursday morning as she said her goodbyes.
The black dog, with a white stripe down the middle, was put into an Animal Services van to be taken to the animal shelter.
“My kids are going to be devastated,” said a sobbing Brown.
She said her children are boys ages 2 and 7 and a girl age 10. They have had Abby since she was 5 months old. At the time, Brown said, the dog was being abused and she decided to take the animal.
“He's very protective of us,” she said.
Animal Services spokeswoman Elaine DeIorio said Abby will be spayed and that if she shows no behavioral issues and is healthy, she will be available for adoption.
Brown said the electricity had been cut off in the single-wide mobile home -- yellow with white trim -- off Northwest 13th Court, after she fell on hard times.
Within the last month, she said, she and her youngest child have been in and out of the hospital as she had a lump removed from her chest and doctors had to drain his lungs of fluid.
Brown said they temporarily moved out of their home and went to Interfaith Emergency Services to seek assistance.
“I'm homeless, and me and my son have been in and out of the hospital,” she said.
One neighbor told the Star-Banner that the family moved out on Christmas Day.
Brown told Sheriff's Deputy E.C. Willis that the last time she fed and watered Abby and a cat who was outside the home was Sunday, Jan. 2.
DeIorio said her agency receives numerous calls every day about possible animal abandonment. She said animal services officials go to the scene and if the animal is not in distress, starving or in imminent danger, they place a notice on the door asking the homeowner to contact them.
The notice stipulates a three-day window, during which officials check the residence to see if everything is all right and try to find the owner. If the owner does not make contact by the end of that 72 hours, officials secure a warrant giving them permission to enter and retrieve the animal. Once they do, the animal is taken to their facility and they continue trying to locate the owner.
DeIorio said if they go to a residence and the animal is in any danger, they will remove it immediately.
The notice had been posted at the Brown home two days ago.
Willis told the Star-Banner the Sheriff's Office received a call about possible animal abuse on Wednesday and tried to find the owner.
After contacting Brown at Interfaith at 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Willis said she told him she had no transportation, had been in the hospital and her lights were shut off.
The deputy said he contacted animal services and Brown talked with them. She then agreed to turn Abby over to their care.
It was not immediately clear when Brown and her children might be able to return to their home. 

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