Help People. Help Dogs.
It was a jail within a jail. But this jail wasn’t to keep society safe from the inmates, this was to keep the inmates safe from society, and perhaps buy them the time they need to have another chance at life.
Attitudes towards animals and philosophies on animal care can vary widely from region to region. Sumner County, Kansas is a rural county south of Wichita on Interstate 35. In June 2009, a resident in the county complained to the sheriff’s department about the condition of an adjacent property. The complaining neighbor was not only concerned with the condition of the property, but also several dogs that were chained to stakes there. The neighbor was worried because she had not seen the dogs’ owner in “3 or 4 days.” The property owner, Terry Long, had been foreclosed on and the double-wide home located on the property had been repossessed.
Sumner County Sheriff Stegman reported, “I could see dogs from a distance of about 20 feet. I counted 7 dogs chained to metal stakes in the back yard. The dogs appeared to be malnourished as I could clearly see the ribs on several of the dogs. I could not see any food and only small amounts of water in buckets and other containers.” With this evidence the sheriff’s department obtained a warrant and seized the dogs. Terry Long was charged with animal cruelty.
But that wasn’t the end of it. The effort to save the dogs turned out to be challenging, and would last well beyond Long’s conviction of animal cruelty and (ridiculously light) sentence of 6 months probation.
Jerry Osborn took charge of the dogs when they came in to the care of the county. “I’m just an animal lover,” says Undersheriff Osborn the owner of two long-haired dachshunds, “it seemed like the right thing to do.” Two of the seven dogs were humanely euthanized by a veterinarian soon after they were seized because of their extremely poor physical condition.
In many rural areas, each of these abused and neglected dogs may have found themselves behind a shed literally “under the gun” rather than in the care of a sheriff’s department. As an animal lover, Osborn set out to figure out how the county could care for the remaining five dogs. Because Sumner County has no animal control, or physical shelter, Osborn had to improvise.
With no indoor facility available to house the dogs, Osborn was able to get a plot of land inside the jail perimeter approved to shelter the dogs. He was able to secure enough housing material and financial donations to build nice, outdoor runs with a concrete base. The local Orscheln’s store donated food bowls, straw and agreed to donate dog food for as long as the dogs were in the county’s care. Finally, Osborn set up a program with the jail, where inmates would earn the privilege of caring for the dogs. The approved “guardians” would feed and water the dogs, exercise them, change the straw in their runs, and keep the runs clean. Osborn had gone to considerable trouble to do what he thought was right for these “pit bulls.”
After securing the means to temporarily care for the dogs, Sheriff Osborn began to reach out for help on what to do next. With no previous experience in this situation, Osborn’s first instinct was to reach out to an organization that is known for its well publicized efforts on behalf of animals. It didn’t take long for him to realize that contacting PETA to help with “pit bull” type dogs was a huge mistake, but that is another article entirely.
After further inquiries, Undersheriff Osborn contacted the Game Dog Guardian and asked for assistance. We traveled down to meet him and the five dogs he had worked so hard to care for. In a time when it is more common to hear of law enforcement shooting pit bulls than saving them, it was extremely refreshing to meet the man and the dogs from this amazing story. Despite the limitations of his community and department, and despite the “breed” of the dogs involved, Undersheriff Osborn did what he could to help dogs he thought deserved it. We wanted to do what we could to help him.
We made arrangements for the dogs to be moved to a safe area where they could be prepared for life as a pet. On Thursday, May 6, 2010, Osborn and his team will transport the dogs to us and we will begin the process of training and preparing each of these dogs for life in a home.
Author’s note: The dogs were in a make-shift shelter being cared for by inmates after being neglected to the point of emaciation… and were all fat. They were very well taken care of by their temporary guardians.
Photos and Bios of each of the Sumner County dogs coming soon!
If you would like to donate, help with on-site training and socialization, or would like to foster, please contact Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Bubba at time of seizure (left) and 10 mos later (right).
The owner burned this dog to "get rid of its fleas."