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SUNDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2007
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This house is at 745 Sykes St. N.W.
Daily photo by John Godbey
This house is at 745 Sykes St. N.W.

Hiding In Plain Sight
Stench leads
police to flea trap

Infested dog, who’d recently weaned puppies, found chained in backyard

By Seth Burkett
sburkett@decaturdaily.com · 340-2355

Police officers investigating a foul odor coming from a house became a feast for a flea infestation, Decatur police said.

The officers got a little taste of what the dog living in the backyard of the vacant home had apparently endured for months.

Lt. Dennis Hughes, a police spokesman, said officers went to the house at 745 Sykes St. N.W. on Oct. 13 after neighbors complained about the smell. Neighbors told them the house had been vacant for a few months.

Animal control officers took custody of the white pit bull found chained in the yard.

“It was just horrifically, hideously flea-infested. It was alive with fleas — let’s put it that way,” said Mindy Gilbert, director of Animal Services. “And the property was flea infested. One of the police officers had to come down here and get sprayed. It was disgusting. It’s my understanding the officers went in the dwelling and it was also flea infested.”

Gilbert said her department had been to the residence previously.

“The dog was not technically abandoned,” Gilbert said. “It had an owner, but the owner was living someplace else and did not appear to be coming on a daily basis to care for the animal. Two of our officers had made contact with the owner to verify that it was his dog and encouraged him to move it to where he was residing.”

Gilbert said officers found the dog “improperly tethered and a little bit underweight,” in addition to the flea situation.

“It had recently weaned puppies, and we suspected it had some intestinal parasite issues, so its physical condition wasn’t terrific, but it wasn’t life-threatening,” Gilbert said.

Animal Services notified the owner that they had taken the dog. The owner came to the animal shelter to pick up the dog but elected to surrender the animal after learning that he would have to pay for a vet checkup, Gilbert said.

Owner unidentified

The Daily was unable to verify the identity of the owner. Gilbert said the only ID the man provided to her was a tattoo on his right forearm.

Animal Services euthanized the dog after it tested heartworm positive, Gilbert said.

Gilbert said she was concerned about the man’s assertion that he breeds pit bulls.

“We do not have in the municipal ordinance a provision to license a dog breeder. It’s not open to any sort of standards,” she said. “Knowing that he, by his own admission, has other dogs in the state that he breeds and sells, you have to wonder what kind of shape they’re in also.”

Neighbors said they believed the house to be a rental property.

The Morgan County Revenue Commission lists the house as owned by a Kim F. Parker. Parker’s listed mailing address is a post office box in Birmingham, care of The Parker Co..

Three other residences in Northwest and Southwest Decatur were listed in the same name.

Attempts to obtain further contact information for Parker or The Parker Co. were unsuccessful.

Fleas

When a reporter went to the house, it appeared vacant. The grass inside the fence was only a few inches high, and no fleas were visible.

One of the police officers left scratching fleabites from Saturday’s ordeal told the reporter he need only enter the yard to obtain hard evidence of the infestation. The reporter chose to respect the closed gate and posted “keep out” sign, observing from a distance.

A weathered piano sat in the front yard and a few pet accessories lay scattered on the back lawn. No foul odor hung in the air.

Neighbors agreed that while they couldn’t smell anything that day, they had smelled something the week before.

Hughes said some in the neighborhood speculated the smell came from a litter of pit bull puppies that could have died. The puppies’ carcasses might be under the house, neighbors had said.

“We couldn’t verify that, but she (the pit bull) did not look like she was in the middle of nursing,” Gilbert said.

“This guy (the owner) admitted that he breeds and sells pit bulls. This dog looked like she had a litter of pit bulls but didn’t look like she had been nursing real recently. So my guess is he had already sold them.”

Gilbert said they found no remains and no other signs of puppies on the premises.

Gilbert said that, during an earlier visit, officers tracked a foul smell to fish that had been put it the garbage.

She didn’t know if the fish was the source of the other odor complaints.

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