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Pet deaths plague W.Va. subdivision

February 04, 1998


Staff Writer, Charles Town

MIDDLEWAY, W.Va. - At least six dogs and two cats have died after being fed poisoned meat in a Jefferson County subdivision in the past month.

Jefferson County Animal Control Officer Donald Longerbeam said he is investigating the deaths in Shady Acres, a subdivision off W.Va. 51 near Middleway, W.Va.

The person or persons responsible could be charged with animal cruelty, which carries a maximum penalty of 90 days in jail and a $300 fine for each death.


Longerbeam said the attacks apparently have been in retaliation for the animals running loose, although in one case the dog had been tied up in the back yard.

The neighborhood has a restriction against pets running loose, but killing the animals is still illegal, Longerbeam said.

The animals were fed meat laced with antifreeze, which causes a slow, painful death, he said.

"It's very depressing. We try to solve problems, but we can't stop all these dogs from running loose," Longerbeam said.

The attacks started about the first of January, said Erin Lee, 19, of Shady Acres.

The family awoke one day to find her cat, Little, dead outside the door, she said.

"It upset me a lot. I just stayed in my room and cried. It was like losing a family member," she said.

Then last week, she went out to her back yard to make sure her dog, Timber, had food and water. When he didn't come out to her call, she looked in his dog house and found him near death.

Lee said she knows there's a leash law in the neighborhood and sometimes Timber would get out through an open gate. But she said that did not make it right to kill the gentle animal.

"I can't believe someone would be so cruel as to kill an animal just because he was running loose. It's not like he was terrorizing anyone," Lee said.

The deaths have torn the neighborhood apart.

Longerbeam said one man who neighbors suspected was threatened with death by one victim. The man has since moved away and at least one pet death has occurred since he left, Longerbeam said.

Longerbeam said that man is no longer a suspect.

Lee said the deaths have turned neighbors against each other.

"Everybody is so scared of their pet being killed and if you don't have an animal, you're suspected. It's not a good situation," Lee said.

"These pets are our family and someone is out there killing them," Lee said.

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