Two and a half years ago, locals found several dead dogs on the banks of the San Jacinto River in Crosby just northeast of Houston.
They had apparently been tortured and killed in a brutal way. And that was just the beginning.
Rhonda Heffernan is the chair of the Animal Safety League of Northeast Harris County (formerly “Stop the Crosby Puppy Massacres”), which was founded after the grim discovery.
“We found a combination of, you know, living animals in different conditions, and then we also found dogs that had been decapitated that were lying on the side of the river and dogs in different states of decomposition, and horses as well.”
Heffernan says for a while, they would find dead or injured animals every other week.
District Attorney Devon Anderson
Last year, the Harris County District Attorney’s Office got involved and launched what it now calls the “Crosby Initiative” together with law enforcement, the Texas Department of Transportation and other agencies, including the Animal Safety League.
Here’s District Attorney Devon Anderson.
“Concrete barriers and fences have been erected in the two areas to stop the dumping and illegal activity. Also, ‘No trespass’ signs were posted warning offenders that if they abandon an animal, they will be prosecuted.”
Anderson says since then there has been an 80 percent reduction in abandoned animals in that area. She says the DA’s office takes animal cruelty very seriously.
“We literally do get calls every single day on different types of animal abuse, whether it’s abandonment, neglect… If you can do this to an animal, then you are capable of hurting other vulnerable people in your family group, like children, maybe elderly people, so we quite often see a correlation between animal abusers and people who abuse the most vulnerable in our society.”
Anderson says her office has designated two animal cruelty specialists and launched similar initiatives in other parts of Harris County. She also says she would like the Texas Legislature to consider making penalties for animal abusers more severe.
“Right now the most you can get is two years in the state jail unless you’ve been to prison we can bump your sentence up. But you can legally kill your animal. You can legally do just about anything to your animal if you own it, except torture it. And we need to change that law.”
In Crosby, the Animal Safety League is doing what it can to help those animals that are still being dumped. So far it has rescued almost a hundred animals – including some cats and a donkey – from the dumping sites.