Pitbulls ordered to be euthanized escape Animal Shelter

Two pitbulls ordered to be euthanized by the Maine Supreme Judicial Court escaped from the Waterville Area Humane Society Tuesday, Oct. 31. The pit bulls, Bentley and Kole, were condemned by an Augusta judge after escaping their fenced in backyard and attacking Winslow resident Sharron Carney near her house last year. The dogs seriously injured Carney and killed her 10 month old Boston Terrier, Fergie Rose.

The dogs have been kept at the Waterville Humane Society on Webb Road since the attack. On Oct. 25, the Maine Supreme Court upheld the decision to euthanize the dogs. Around the same time, the pit bulls’ owner, Danielle Jones, was permitted to take the dogs for a brief walk.

But she returned to the shelter soon after without the dogs. “They got away from me,” Jones told the Portland Press Herald.

Jones was previously charged with two counts of keeping a dangerous dog. Asked by the Portland Press Herald about the possibility that Jones intentionally freed the dogs, Winslow Chief of Police Shawn O’Leary said the situation seems “suspicious, to say the least.”

Several of Jones’s neighbors have been quoted as believing that Jones was likely involved in freeing her dogs. Neighbor Chris Rusnov, who knew Carney, said in an interview with the Central Maine News Network that Jones “should not get away with doing this. I think she was calculated.”

On Wednesday, the Morning Sentinel attempted to reach Jones at her residence. While no one answered the door, staff heard several dogs barking inside. A woman identified only as wearing “a black shirt” told the Morning Sentinel that she later saw a “pit bull” walk through the door to Jones’s house.

In an interview with the Echo, Waterville Chief of Police Joseph Massey said that he had no verification of the Morning Sentinel’s claim that a woman in a “black shirt” had seen a pitbull enter Jones’ Winslow house.  Nevertheless, O’Leary went as far as to call the dogs’ disappearance probably “a coordinated effort,” according to the Morning Sentinal, suggesting foul play. He threatened that Winslow police would take all animal sheltering needs to Augusta shelters if the Waterville branch does not change management.

Massey told the Echo that the Waterville police department is also investigating Jones’s claim that the dogs “got away” from her.

Massey noted key differences between the visit during which the dogs were able to escape and Jones’s previous visits. He said that, per the ongoing police investigation, Jones previously was permitted to take one dog at a time, and only walk and play with the dog in an “enclosed area” because she otherwise “couldn’t handle” them.

However, during the last visit, Jones was permitted to take both dogs off site and walk them simultaneously. Massey said that his investigation finds that the dogs were said to have escaped into a “wooded area.”

Former Director of the Waterville Animal Shelter, Lisa Smith, stepped down amidst this controversy. The Echo asked Waterville Animal Shelter Interim Director, Rory Routhier, about Chief Massey’s account of the incident, and Smith’s decision to leave the shelter. Routhier maintained the shelter’s stated position, that Jones was able to deceive the shelter employees to let her take both dogs off site that day.

Routhier explained that, “despite what newspapers are saying, the shelter had no involvement” in the escape of the condemned dogs. She reiterated the shelter’s mission to “provide a home to animals that can no longer be cared for” in their current living situations.

“We are fully cooperating with local police departments and have had no contact with Danielle Jones since the incident. We do the best for the animals and the community.”

She further described that Smith’s resignation was unrelated to the pitbull incident. “The director [Smith] took the shelter to the next level,” she said, adding that Smith simply felt that now was the right time to pass the reigns.

Routhier stated that the shelter would seek a permanent replacement to former director in the coming months. The Humane Society Board has stated that, when a new director is chosen, a meeting will be conducted between the director and other shelter staff, board members, and the police to finalize procedures for dealing with potentially dangerous animals.

Tomotaka Cho ’18, who leads the Colby club Paw Pals, which takes trips to the shelter, said that he had not heard of the pitbulls’ escape. He added, “the Humane Society is a great place nearby if you’re looking to walk some dogs or hang out with some cats. The shelter is pretty organized and the staff there are all great and very helpful.”

Routhier, like Cho, is optimistic about the situation, and described a past incident in which a dog was able to independently escape its kennel. However, this dog had not been deemed dangerous and shelter staff were able to locate the animal, which was eventually adopted.

Nevertheless, Massey explained challenges in the ongoing investigation to find the dogs and determine if Jones had any involvement in their escape.

“We do not know where the dogs are. No one saw the dogs get away from her. There’s no video surveillance, and there are no other witnesses,” he explained. “It’s very difficult when you have little to go on. They could be anywhere.”

Asked about the potential danger these dogs pose to the Waterville and Winslow communities, Massey said, “If the dogs are loose, the dogs are very dangerous. They’ve killed a dog and seriously injured the owner of that dog, and so, have a history of violence.”

He advised that Waterville-Winslow residents and Colby students that come across stray dogs should “not make contact with any pit bulls, and get to a safe place like a car or a building.” Then, he said, they should call the Waterville police department and report what they saw.

Massey confirmed that the Waterville police have not yet received any calls about the dogs, so he assumes that they are possibly being housed away from the public. As to where exactly they are—that remains anyone’s best guess.


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