Dec. 25, 2008 — It was not a sight to put anyone in the Christmas spirit. Quite the opposite.
A volunteer who arrived early Wednesday at the St. Croix Welfare Center to prepare for the staff holiday party found an emaciated dog, dead, tied by the neck to the fence surrounding the property. According to Gretchen Sherrill, communications director for the center, it was not clear if the dog had died of malnourishment or had been choked, although it was apparently still alive when it was tied to the fence.
The center staff is investigating the incident as a case of animal cruelty, which is illegal throughout the territory.
"Starving an animal to death is a crime, it is animal cruelty and although AWC sees this kind of cruelty on a regular basis, it is especially difficult to stomach at this time of year," said director of animal care operations Moises Carmona. "We encourage citizens to report suspected abuse and neglect to the police and the AWC. It is the law and community has to help us enforce it."
Animal cruelty was declared a crime in the Virgin Islands in 2005, although no cases have been prosecuted under the law. In February 2009 the "Max" case, involving a dog that was apparently beaten to death, is slated to go to trial on St. Croix. The trial is scheduled to begin directly after the close of Silent Witness, the territory-wide conference on the link between animal abuse and domestic violence and the prosecution of animal cruelty crimes.
Sherill said Wednesday that at this time the staff has no information to go on in the new case.
"The dog was definitely neglected, very malnourished," she said. "The way that it was tied up to the fence it's unclear if the dog died from malnourishment or was choked. But based on how it was found it looks as if it were alive when it was left here."
She described the dog as a mal boxer mix, white with a brown spot on its back. It was young, not a puppy but about a year or two old. And it was not a stray, she added.
"The dog had a collar on. It was not a stray. It was somebody's dog."
Sherrill urged people to contact the center or the police if they see signs that an animal is being mistreated or neglected.
"If people see their neighor's dog and it looks malnourished, the people aren't feeding it, not giving it water, if they see abuse, they should report it," she said.
People can contact the Animal Welfare Center at 778-1650 or by e-mail
Founded in 1973, the St. Croix Animal Welfare Center promotes the human treatment of animals in the St. Croix community through education, encouragement and enforcement. Readers can learn more about the center's programs and services at the center's website
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