Former Mass. animal control officer faces animal abuse charges

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April 4, 2013, 8:15 pm
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(NECN: Ally Donnelly) - Soft, sweet-faced Charra deserves all the love and attention she can get.

The 13-year-old poodle mix is now blind and deaf after the severely neglected dog was abandoned in Wareham in January. Rachel Rawlings, an Onset firefighter, adopted Charra after MSPCA investigators say 73-year-old Dennis Murray didn't properly feed or care for the dog for months.

Said Rawlings, "I thought she was just going to die. I thought she was coming to to die."

MSPCA officers say, on a frigid winter night, Murray told his family he was bringing the sickly dog to the vet, but instead dumped her in a snowbank on the side of the road.

MSPCA Law Enforcement Officer Chris Charbonneau said, "An elderly dog, that compromised being left on probably one of the coldest nights that we had -- I'm totally amazed that's she's alive."

Charbonneau says Charra is now blind and deaf after suffering from severe eye and ear infections. When passersby found her she was covered in fleas, had to have 14 infected teeth removed and needed surgery to remove bulging tumors.

We tried to get Murray's side of the story, but he wouldn't come to the door when we knocked. However, Charbonneau says when investigators grilled him, Murray admitted he hadn't taken care of the dog.

"He said it would cost too much money," Charbonneau says, "But I asked him, 'Did you call around?' And he didn't make one phone call. Not one phone call."

While Charra is in a loving home with kids and other dogs, the story of a dog MSPCA staff called Angel, does not have a happy ending.

"There was nothing they could possibly do for the dog," Charbonneau says.

A neighbor's tip led investigators to 51-year-old Anna Nelson. The Wareham woman is facing animal cruelty charges after she allegedly failed to well feed or get medical care for her 10-year-old terrier mix.

Charbonneau, gesturing angrily said, "This dog, I could have probably taken my pinky, up to my, knuckle and stuck it between the ribs."

Severely underweight and diseased, Angel had to be euthanized and what's so shaken the MSPCA staff is that Nelson is a former Wareham Animal Control officer.

"That's a person who knows who to call, where to go," Charbonneau said.

Investigators say, cases like this are on the rise. Last year, the MSPCA investigated 3200 cases of abuse and neglect -- about 10 percent so severe, the accusers were formally charged. And officers say the economy plays no small part.

Said, Rachel Rawlings, "When it comes down to, do I feed my family or feed my dog. They're going to choose their family."

Charbonneau agreed.

"I have a waiting list of animals because everyone I've called (to volunteer) has taken every animal that I've asked them to take and now there's an excess of animals."

But still, Charbonneau is not giving Nelson a free pass.

"There should be no reason," he said. "With the knowledge that you have and the experience that you have -- that an animal should suffer like that."

Animal abuse was classified as a felony in Massachusetts in 2007, carrying up to a $2,500 fine and five years in prison. Both suspects will be arraigned later this month in Wareham District Court. Dennis Murray is due in court on April 18, and Anna Nelson will be arraigned on April 24.

Charbonneau says had either suspect come to the MSPCA, police or a vet before difficult times became severe neglect, officers would have found them help and they wouldn't be facing any charges.

Tags: massachusetts, Charra, MSPCA, Ally Donnelly, Wareham, animal abuse charges, Anna nelson, Angel, Dennis Murray, Chris Charbonneau
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