Where it goes: Donations earmarked for new animal shelter
By Paul Huggins
Restitution money from a man convicted of cruelty to Lucky the dog will help a new Decatur Animal Shelter.
Dr. Steven Osborne, the Decatur veterinarian who amputated Lucky’s mangled leg and nursed him back to health, said the $2,321 that Morgan County Circuit Judge Sherrie Paler ordered Samuel Sanders to pay will be added to the more than $24,000 the dog acquired from well-wishers since February 2006.
Donations came in from across America after Lucky’s story made news, and people wanted to increase the $500 reward Osborne started to find Lucky’s abuser. With checks arriving from as far away as Oregon and Connecticut, the reward fund totaled about $16,500.
The tipster who gave information that led to Sanders’ arrest accepted a portion of that total, less than 30 percent, Osborne said.
Sanders, 27, was tried for first-degree cruelty to a dog in connection with severe injuries to Lucky, whom he once owned. Osborne believed the injuries were consistent with dog fighting. Police found no other evidence of dog fighting, and the jury returned a guilty verdict for the lesser-included charge of second-degree cruelty to a dog, a misdemeanor.
Because the informant didn’t provide specific evidence, or testify in court, the informant, Osborne and Decatur police investigator Sgt. Rick Archer agreed on the lesser amount, he said. This allowed the informant to receive the money nine months before Sanders’ conviction, which was a condition of the reward.
Afterward, Osborne contacted 15 to 20 of the top donors and asked if they objected to using remaining reward money for a new $1.2 million animal shelter. He said he received no objections.
Last fall, Osborne and his wife made a calendar of photographs of Lucky, which they sold as a fundraiser for the new shelter. Although it didn’t sell as well as they had hoped, it did
compensate for the money given to the informant and pushed the new total to more than $24,000.
The money is in an account Wachovia Bank offered for free, but because Lucky does not have a Social Security number, the account cannot earn interest.
The restitution money Sanders must pay is based on the estimated value of Osborne’s treatment for Lucky.
Osborne said he wants the public to know he did not use any of the money given to Lucky’s reward for the dog’s care and will continue that practice with the restitution dollars.
“The whole deal has been a net loss to us personally,” he said. “We had some people who came in and said, ‘Here’s
$100 for Lucky’s reward and here’s $100 for Lucky’s care.’ We put all that money into the reward.”
Besides helping refurbish a building for the animal shelter, Osborne said, the money is available to offer small rewards to anyone who helps police identify and convict animal abusers.
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