Abandoned in the dark, pets not better off

People are leaving the pets they don't want at the Humane Society almost every night.

Published October 24, 2006

BROOKSVILLE - Sometime late last Friday night, at the Humane Society at the corner of Wiscon and Mobley roads, someone dropped three cats and a kitten over the fence near the rear of one of the facility's yards.

Staff members arrived Saturday morning and let out some of the dogs. The resulting bloody ruckus involved four dogs, two of the cats and the kitten. One cat had to be put to sleep and the kitten was killed.

"The kitten's guts were ripped out," shelter manager Dennis Schoch said. "It died in my arms."

This is what happens, say those who work at the Humane Society, when people get rid of their cats or dogs in the dark and then leave, and they say it has been happening more and more of late.

"It's always happened to some extent, but now much, much, much more than in the past," said Joanne Schoch, Dennis' wife and the executive director of the Humane Society of the Nature Coast. It used to be a few times a month. Now it's almost daily.

"This is the worst it's been," she said. "They think they're a good thing, dropping the animals off at the Humane Society, but people have to know: They're NOT doing a good thing. It's like, 'Wake up, people!' "

The Humane Society, with its small concrete-block buildings, wooden sheds and chain-link fences, was built more than 40 years ago, when the population of the county wasn't even 15,000. Now it's more than 160,000.

Dennis Schoch has enough space for about 50 cats. He has more than 60 now. He has 17 dog kennels and 20 dogs.

The sign propped up by the gate in front says the shelter is looking for dog and puppy food, and cat and kitten food, and volunteers and "loving homes."

The Humane Society doesn't euthanize. The facility can take in only so many animals. The people who drop and ditch after hours know that and don't want to be turned away during the day.

Dennis Schoch has found a kitten in a washtub, a kitten in a poorly taped, tipped-over box, and a dog tied to the fence with a chain.

That's just in the last couple of weeks.

Sometimes he finds only chewed-up leashes on the fence and the body of a dog or a cat killed by a car somewhere a couple of miles away.

He walked on Saturday down the line of dog kennels.

A pit bullterrier.

"Dropped over my fence," he said.

A chow mix.

"Tied to my fence."

A Rottweiler.

"Two weeks ago Saturday. Tied to my fence.

"They think they're heroes, like they're saving the cat's life, or saving the dog's life," Dennis Schoch said. "They're just shifting the obligation. They're just shifting the responsibility. There's nothing heroic about putting a kitten in a box and dumping it over the fence or tying a dog to a fence.

"If they think they're doing something so good, then why do they always do it in the dark?"

On Saturday morning, the kitten must have been hidden by the base of the three-trunked tree near the rear of the exercise yard with loose dirt and crabgrass. The Schoches figure the cats were probably up in the tree. Two of them must have come down from the tree to try to save the kitten from the dogs.

The cat that had to be put down was gray and had a ripped-open side and a broken back. Dennis Schoch took him to Hernando County Animal Services to euthanize him.

The black kitten was probably three or four weeks old.

By Saturday afternoon, the cat that survived the fight was in the back of a cage, looking worn out and sad in a room with beige kittens and gray kittens and a playful calico kitten with a little pink tongue. Another cat from the abandoned group that must have climbed the fence to escape and was found by the side of the road crouched low and looked scared.

"I don't blame you," Dennis Schoch told the cat.

He reached out with a finger.

"Come here, baby," he said. "It's okay. It's okay, sweetheart. We'll take care of you."

Michael Kruse can be reached at mkruse@sptimes.com or 352 848-1434.