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Saturday, Jul 9, 2005County: Baldwin
Disposition: Not Charged
Person of Interest: Steve Turner
Baldwin County sheriff's investigators said on July 21 they would not pursue charges against a man who reportedly abandoned six dogs, including two puppies that died, when he evacuated for Hurricane Dennis.
The man, identified as Steve Turner, in his 30s, told investigators during an interview that while he was out of state during the storm, he suffered from a medical condition that prevented him from returning, according to Baldwin County sheriff's spokesman Sgt. John Murphy.
Murphy declined to reveal the nature of Turner's medical condition.
The mother dog, a medium-size shepherd mix, and a male puppy survived from July 9 to 19 with little food or water in a utility room in Turner's mobile home near Fairhope, according to Baldwin County Sheriff's Office Capt. Huey "Hoss" Mack Jr.
Investigators said there were apparently four other puppies at the home off Baldwin County 33 just outside of Fairhope, but that the mother dog may have eaten two of them after they died, Mack said. Two other puppies were buried by neighbors.
Before Turner returned, investigators had obtained a warrant for his arrest on a charge of misdemeanor cruelty to animals, Murphy said. While Turner was legally bound to turn himself in on the charge, Murphy said, the case would not be pursued.
"We do not believe this was a negligence issue or intentional issue," Murphy said. "The animals had always been well taken care of, and he had shot records. We feel the individual was very upset about the loss of his animals as well. We just don't want to make a bad situation worse."
Turner showed investigators medical records to prove he was treated while he was away for 10 days, Murphy said, adding that he did not know whether Turner was hospitalized during the time.
Murphy said Turner was out of state, but Murphy did not know exactly where. A neighbor, Robin Ward, said Turner had gone to Georgia to be with family.
Neighbors said Turner lived with a woman and a child, but Murphy said he did not know their whereabouts. Turner told investigators that he thought the food and water he left would be sufficient until he returned, Murphy said.
"I really think that a lot of people made more of a negative out of this than it should have been," Murphy said. "Probably in hindsight, there are some things he could have done. But he was in a serious-enough situation that was probably not the first thing he had in his mind to take care of."
A veterinarian discovered on July 20 that, long before the hurricane, the mother dog had suffered a broken leg that had never been treated, said Lisa Hume, a board member with the Baldwin County Humane Society, which is treating the dogs. Surgery could cost upward of $1,500, she said.
Hume named the female dog Charity and the puppy Jacob, she said. Charity is a roughly 1½-year-old shepherd mix and Jacob is about 6 to 8 weeks, she added.
Because of the dogs' frail conditions, the group will closely monitor their health and feed them small amounts four times each day, gradually increasing the amount before reducing the number of meals, she said.
"I've been doing rescue for about six years, and I've never seen a dog that's this emaciated that's alive that can walk around," Hume said. "It's going to take quite some time. We'll take care of her until the court decides what's going to happen."
Murphy said the two dogs will likely be returned to Turner.
- Mobile Register - July 23, 2005
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