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City's Lack Of Response In Animal Cruelty Case Disturbs Fort Worth Pet Sitters

FORT WORTH (CBSDFW.COM) - Fort Worth has made a change to an animal control policy after two residents couldn't get anyone to respond to a case of apparent animal cruelty.

The report came in Sunday while the city shelter was closed and only an on-call officer was staffed due to budget restraints.

Still, Mike Phipps said he was surprised he couldn't get anyone to respond.  "I was wanting an investigation more or less," said Phipps. "At least a report made on it."

Phipps and Eddie Sakerka were driving in the 4900 block of Brentwood Stair Road when Sakerka saw a dog kennel on the side of the road. It's a stretch of road with no homes, no apartments and just a storage business nearby.  "I just barely caught it out of the corner of my eye because there's so many weeds and brush along here," he said.

The pair run a pet sitting business together. They occasionally find old kennels, clean them and donate them to an animal shelter. Sakerka got out to grab the crate. He didn't expect to find it occupied.  "I knew she was dead the second I seen her," he said. "I could see where the crate was separated where she had fought to try to get out of this crate."

He and Phipps estimated the small, female pit bull mix was no more than a few months old. It didn't have any injuries. Phipps said he called the Humane Society, which told him it sounded like an animal cruelty case and to call 911. Phipps said an operator there though told him it was not a police issue. After a return call to the Humane Society, and then to police again, an operator referred him to the number for the city streets department.

"We have protocol and is it known?" Phipps asked Wednesday. "Do they know we have policy and by all means was that followed?"

Fort Worth Code Compliance director Brandon Bennett said if it was a dangerous dog, or an imminent case of animal cruelty, an officer would have responded. The department though had to close its shelter on Sundays due to budget cuts and only an on-call officer is staffed.

Bennett said the weekend policy on dispatching calls will change because of this case.  "We've learned from this and that is to update the policy that if something similar like this comes in again, it will go to the on call officer who will then make the decision to respond or not to respond."

Bennett added the dog's death does appear to be a case of cruelty. If anyone recognizes the dog or saw it dropped off, he said investigators would like to know about it to investigate the case. The code compliance office has taken 1600 cruelty reports in the last year.

Phipps and Sakerka put a cross at the spot on where the found the dog they have named "Pretty Girl." They are also putting up posters with the promise of a reward for information that leads to an arrest in the case.


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