Ernest Dempsey — The case of Michigan’s endangered pit bull Toby has come to a mysteriously strange turn where the dog’s status is far from clear. With complete silence from the animal control that took Toby captive after an alleged dog bite, and nearly same from other relevant parties, the situation is evoking speculation, concern, and even anger with the big question flashing continuously: whatever happened to Toby?
Owned by an animal rescue Saving Argo, 10-month young Toby was being transported to an adoption event in Sheri Linker in Battle Creek, Michigan, when he had a fit of excitement in the car and the driver had to stop and call the animal control. The Kent County Animal Control of Grand Rapids, Michigan, arrived on the scene and to Toby’s misfortune, the pit bull allegedly “nipped” a teenager volunteer in the car. Toby was immediately taken into custody after the animal control’s staff on the scene got some papers signed by the driver. Toby was placed in quarantine for 10 days, expiring December 14. A Facebook page Free Toby was created after the dog was taken captive by the Kent County Animal Control.
While animal rights advocates kept struggling for Ace, including calling Kent County’s administrator Daryl Delabbio for intervention, the Free Toby page in a short post on its wall notified, Wednesday, December 14, that the animal control holding Toby said they would not euthanize him that day, creating hope that Toby will come out safe from the charges of a “dog bite”, the commonly cited reason for killing a dog. However, on Thursday, December 15, the page notified, in somber tone, that Toby had been killed as told by the animal control in a phone message at the Saving Argo—Toby’s owner. The post said that the animal control had called them to inquire what the rescue would like to do with Toby’s remains. But things got off track soon, wallowing down an abyss of mystery and confusion.
Animal supporters campaigning online for Toby’s release kept attuned to the Free Toby page for updates or news on confirmation of Toby’s status. None came, and that is the case so far. The animal control has retained a tight hush over the issue. Calls made to the control are received by an attendant who says she has no information on Toby and she diverts the call to the concerned person(s) but the caller always encounters the answering machine asking to leave a message. So far, no report of any message getting a reply has been received. No different is the story of the dog rescue owning Toby. It is inaccessible by phone and no messages have been or are being answered. Only the Facebook page is being used for brief, usually very short posts/updates, grieving Toby’s uncertain situation. Even the administrator’s office has kept silent over the issue despite hundreds of queries about Toby, until this afternoon when animal rights advocate Larisa Scharikin received a short email reply from a Kent County commissioner saying, “The driver assumed responsibility as and signed as owner of the dog.” Who was this driver and what exactly was going on?
None of information was revealed either by the rescue or the animal control, nor was the name of the allegedly bitten teenager disclosed. Why has there been such silence on behalf of the rescue, the owner? The skeptic voices already started questioning the rescue’s role in this whole drama of confusion that put a dog’s life in danger. On the Free Toby page, several comments targeted the rescue for literally making it possible for the control to endanger dogs. They have asked things like: what kind of rescue carries loose dogs in a car, without confining them in safe crates, especially when a teenage volunteer was inside the car (which in turn gave rise to the question why a teenager would be sent with loose dogs in the same car?) Why would a rescue worker call an animal control in the first place (wasn’t 911 a better option if a teenager was injured)? Making things worse, the “bad responses” seem to have been removed from the Facebook page, fueling the suspicion about the role of the rescue in Toby’s crisis.
On the other hand, the rescue’s administrator on Toby’s page, Jennifer, has disclosed that the rescue is being threatened. In her latest post today (11:17 pm), she wrote, “Now our rescue is receiving threatening Emails and phone calls. This was not the purpose!!!” Responding to comments on her post, she also writes, “Thank you for making me feel worse when I’ve already been broken by blaming myself for Toby’s death. I’m sorry everyone.”
But where is Toby? Is he dead or still breathing? Nobody knows and a mysterious silence has filled the air with an ominous cloud of confusion. In this secretive web of responsibility, abuse, ethics, and possible betrayal, the ultimate victim may still be breathing somewhere, or perhaps already robbed of his innocent right to live.
Toby, are you there?
Note: Latest on Toby is coming up on this journal shotly.