Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Dog found starved to death in squalor

By Jeff Harrell, from WSBT

Animal group calls for felony charges for owner, set for sentencing in unrelated case

The lifeless dog's ribs showed through emaciated skin.
Starved, dehydrated and lying dead in a dresser drawer on the floor of an enclosed back porch, the Brindle pit bull named Daniel by animal welfare workers never made it to 2 years old.
"Horrible condition," said Jamie Metcalf, director of operations for Pet Pardons, an advocacy group for saving dogs' lives. Metcalf went to the two-story house where Daniel was found dead after the dog's owner, Joe Ewing, was evicted April 4.
Scratched doors in rooms where the dog appeared to be locked in indicated Daniel spent the last days of his life desperately trying to claw his way back into the foodless, waterless squalor at 310 E. Indiana Ave., likely for something to eat.
A badly chewed wall next to the door leading into the house from the back porch is evidence the dog also tried to gnaw his way inside.
On the floor in the front living room -- surrounded by feces, trash and two large children's play cars -- a large open bag once containing Pet Pride dog food sat stuffed with carpet padding.
"We went to court ... and he handed me the key in front of the judge, saying he got everything out of there," said Jason Pffledderer, the Indiana Avenue rental property's manager.
Pffledderer said Ewing denied owning the dog during a phone conversation.
"For him to deny it to me is absurd," Pffledderer said Thursday, pointing out scratch marks on several doors inside the home.
"I know for a fact that dog lived here with him," Pffledderer said. "I've seen the dog here numerous times. (Ewing's) best friend told me that he was leaving (the dead dog) here purposely for me to clean up."
Feces litter the floors throughout the house. Doors leading into the house from the back porch, a small bathroom next to the kitchen, one of the bedrooms and the inside of the door to the attic are badly scratched.
The wall of the back porch next to the door is severely chewed.
"Just like you would when you're hungry and you wanted to go back where you know the food was," Pffledderer said. "The dog's claw marks were trying to go inside the door. If the dog didn't belong in the house, the claw marks would have been going outside."
"I think they had him locked in different rooms," Metcalf said. "I don't think they fed him, even when he was roaming the house. I don't think the dog ever saw daylight."
Necropsy results showed the dog's nails were broken and his feet were bruised.
"He had wood in his teeth," Metcalf said.
Remnants of a couch cushion were also found in the dog's stomach.
"Joe's lying that the dog isn't his," Pffledderer insisted.
Animal Control supervisor Kim Lucas was called in to photograph Daniel and the conditions of the house. Police are trying to track down Ewing.
"He didn't leave a forwarding address," said Capt. Phil Trent, spokesman for the South Bend Police Department, adding, "We had him in our system."
Ewing, 25, was arrested in June last year and charged with marijuana and drug paraphernalia possession, and maintaining a common nuisance. At the time of the arrest Ewing was on probation following a robbery conviction in 2004, according to St. Joseph Superior Court records.
His address listed at the time of the arrest in June last year was an apartment in the 600 block of Portage Avenue.
Neighbor Will Sirus said Ewing and a woman moved into the house on Indiana Avenue in October.
"They got a dog in December. I saw it," Sirus said, recalling that another neighbor complained to Sirus about hearing a dog "howling" inside the house.
"I never heard the dog howling, but one of the neighbors said they did," Sirus said.
In February, Ewing pleaded guilty to a count of maintaining a common nuisance -- a Class D felony that carries a sentencing range of six months to three years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
He is due at St. Joseph Superior Court for sentencing May 2.
Metcalf is spearheading a petition drive calling for St. Joseph County Prosecutor Michael Dvorak to hit Ewing with felony animal cruelty charges.
"He (the dog) was completely emaciated, and experienced a long, lonely and painful death," Metcalf wrote in the online petition, which so far has generated more than 4,700 signatures.
"We are pleading with the prosecution to please charge Joe Ewing to the full extent of the law."
Dvorak said any potential charges that may result from the dog's death "had nothing to do with that other case." Ewing could face consecutive sentences if animal cruelty charges stick on top of whatever sentence Ewing receives in May.
But Dvorak made it clear Ewing has yet to be charged in Daniel's death.
"We don't have anything official," Dvorak said. "But we're very much on top of it."
Metcalf is hoping felony animal cruelty charges will piggyback on Ewing's other case.
"A lot of times it gets reduced to a misdemeanor," she said, "but hopefully with his track record they'll get him a Class C felony.
"We need stricter laws," Metcalf added, "to deter people from being negligent when they own animals."

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