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2012 July
Willis, Texas, USA

Update Monday August 6:  We have full confirmation now that SCARLETT is NOT among the surviving dogs confiscated from the Spindletop ranch last July 17.  We don't know where she is nor whether she is dead or alive.  But we'll keep looking.  If any of you readers have any information or leads or suggestions, we'd love to receive them.  Just email us at info@OnWingsOfCare. Thanks for your support.  Wherever you are, Scarlett, be at peace and know we love you.

UPDATE Sunday August 5 -- our match for ACE was just confirmed!  The AFF people finally found his microchip.  He's going home next week!  YEA!!!

A SECOND UPDATE Sunday August 5 -- they have also confirmed our match for FAWN! She goes home next week, too!

Dog rescuers from all over the country were startled, outraged, and grieved by news on July 17, 2012 that the Spindletop Pitbull Refuge in Willis, TX was in reality no refuge at all.  Montgomery County, after receiving a tip, descended on Spindletop and confiscated close to 300 dogs that had been kept in crates, many sitting in their own feces and urine. At least one owner-identified dog was recently discovered to have escaped during the raid only to be hit and killed by a car. A mass grave was discovered filled with bodies of 38 dogs who had died this past June from thirst, overheating, and lack of fresh air in one of the unventilated buildings used by Spindletop.

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Hundreds of animal rescuers like us had entrusted Ms. Leah Purcell during the past year with our dogs, in return for payments of from $750 to several thousand dollars that were ostensibly for Purcell’s boarding and training of the dogs and her help in finding adopters for the dogs.  In reality, barely a handful of those dogs have been adopted, and even those remain unverified and unidentified by Ms. Purcell.  Further, Ms. Purcell's purported "refuge" was not even a legal nonprofit rescue; it was and still is an operating for-profit business, and apparently it was making a pretty hefty profit.

Spindletop and Leah Purcell had enjoyed a fine reputation among pitbull rescuers, although it was little known that the “refuge” had lost its nonprofit status years ago.  Ms. Purcell had also gained fame with her “expert testimony” in the trial of Michael Vick regarding his fighting dogs. On the recommendation of other rescuers who had trusted their rescue dogs to Purcell, On Wings Of Care flew our precious Scarlett to Spindletop last November 6, 2011.  When we drove to the ranch and met Leah, we were satisfied by the look of the ranch and by the interactions we witnessed between Scarlett and Leah and between Leah and the other dogs in enclosures around her house.  We left Scarlett feeling that this might truly be a positive step in her life.  We became concerned in the ensuing weeks because we had great difficulty reaching Leah and she did not volunteer clear information about how Scarlett was doing or how adoption prospects were being sought.  But each time that we persisted and managed to reach Leah by phone, she assured us that Scarlett was doing beautifully.  By early December, she told us that Scarlett was being fostered at a friend’s ranch, and that the friend liked her so much that she planned to adopt Scarlett.  We believed that Scarlett’s forever home had finally come true, and, finally, we rested easy about our having left her care and her fate to someone we believed was more able to provide it than were we.  We even shared Scarlett’s “success story” on our website.

Our response to the news of the raid on Spindletop was a combination of shock and enormous concern for our dog Scarlett and all of the other dogs.  Immediately, we prepared email folders containing all information about our Scarlett’s health history, her microchip ID number, and many photos and descriptions of her uniquely identifying features.  We sent these to everyone involved that we could think of -- the District Attorney’s office, the local Animal Control in charge of the confiscated animals, and representatives from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the Animal Farm Foundation (AFF) who had been contracted by Montgomery Country to tend the confiscated dogs at the Montgomery Country fairgrounds in nearby Conroe, TX.  In our desperate efforts to find Scarlett and rescue her from this hell we had unwittingly brought her to last November, we even contacted Ms. Purcell and her defense attorney, Ms. Zandra Anderson.  To our surprise and huge relief, Ms. Anderson replied to our email!  She assured us that Scarlett was alive and fine, that she had been confiscated with the other dogs, and she even told us that Scarlett could be found in the temporary shelter in HSUS kennel numbers 1--178!  With this prompt and detailed reassurance coming from Purcell's attorney, it seemed to us -- and to others to whom she gave the identical assurance and information -- as though Ms. Anderson was really trying to help the dogs and their former owners.  That, in turn, made us wonder if perhaps there were at least some understandable circumstances (not excuses) that might have contributed to Purcell having kept so many dogs in such inhumane conditions.

The only problem is, Ms. Anderson’s information was not correct.  Not for Scarlett, and only for a handful of the many other dogs for whom she gave similar or identical information.  After a day or two, Ms. Anderson stopped replying to inquiries from dog owners altogether.  Further, we learned that what Purcell had told us about Scarlett's being adopted by people on a ranch was exactly what many other dog owners had been told about their dogs.  Where are all these ranches, who are all these wonderful adopters?  Not a word has been heard from a one of them.


Civil Trial, Friday 2012 July 20

The wheels of justice seem to move swiftly in Texas.  But maybe not so surely.

Read the full article with lots of photos here!