Alice, 1 Year Later
It was a year ago this week that I first became involved in the case of Alice, the female bulldog who was forced to live for years in a filthy 5’x8’ wooden box in Toombs County, Georgia. Her story captured many hearts and changed my life forever. Not a day goes by when I don’t think of her pitiful eyes that begged for help, for love, for someone to care.
For us, the past year has brought some very low lows, but also new friends and a renewed sense of purpose. Nothing could have prepared us for the anger and opposition that would come crashing down on us for challenging the status quo. And nothing could make us feel prouder to be a part of the animal rescue community than the hundreds and thousands of people who stood up with us and said, “NO, this is not right.”
Last February, many of you joined the fight to free Alice from her cruel owner,the person who admitted to locking her away in that box, claimed to love her but couldn't even tell us her name (until the TV crews showed up, that is.)
We pressed local officials to take action, and from all over the world, people got involved. We wrote letters. We faxed. We emailed. We called. We boycotted. 29,000 of us signed a petition asking Toombs County officials to do something. When they didn’t listen, we rallied on the courthouse lawn. National media, including CNN, covered our cause.
These thousands of people who banded together to try and convince an unwilling system to press charges against the owner were only told, “What’s cruelty to you may not be cruelty to me.” Those in power who could have, should have, made a difference in the life of this sweet girl did nothing except deny that any wrong had been committed. To cover up their lack of concern, those opposed to the fight for Alice called her plight a hoax and levied personal attacks against anyone who stood up for justice for her.
Still, we pressed on, knowing the fight for Alice was well worth whatever was laid against us. A number of times, we offered to pay for all of Alice's vet care, only to be turned down. We asked to be present for an impartial vet to fully examine Alice, to get a report on her true state of health. Again, denied. An offer to exchange Alice for a savings bond for the owner's use towards her grand children's future went unanswered. We can only speculate what made Alice more valuable to her owner than these offers.
Just as we felt we were making progress in freeing Alice,our home caught fire. That one event forced me to temporarily remove myself from leading the fight for Alice, leaving the task in the very capable hands of supporters who, to this day, still believe in the task at hand.
We were devastated as we buried three animals who were lost in the fire. Our hearts were broken as we voluntarily surrendered the majority of our rescue dogs to other rescues, knowing it was best for them as the rebuilding process would not allow us time to care for them as we should. We wondered if the fire was truly an accident or a warning.
We were stunned as former friends turned against us, friends who we had helped many times and stood beside as they faced their own trials and tribulations. Instead of giving support, they made accusations ranging from burning down our own home to fraud and animal abuse. When others attempted to help us, they were harassed. There was much anger that “outsiders” were learning of what was going on here and were trying to do something about it.
Still, we pressed on, for we knew the fight for Alice would carry a price. Shortly after the fire, we learned that Alice had been moved to an undisclosed location. This has left us to wonder if she is still being mistreated, still longing for love.
Since Alice was relocated, many of you have asked for updates, seeking to know where and how she is. Truth is, we do not know. Some have claimed to know her whereabouts, but fail to provide proof.
What we do know is this one dog touched the lives of many people, inspiring the courage for some of you to stand up for your own “Alice.” A number of you have said that the plight of Alice gave you the courage to fight for an abused or neglected animal. Others have gotten involved in rescue, fostering or volunteering their time, in honor of Alice. Still others have gotten involved legislatively, pushing to strengthen animal welfare laws.
This has grown to be about more than just Alice. It has grown into making sure that Toombs County and other places like it make the changes necessary to ensure there are no more cases like Alice. Even if it is I alone, I will continue to bring to light the injustice that people like those we've encountered here commit against animals.
In the midst of rebuilding our home and readying for the reopening of SoCo Rescue, we have not forgotten Alice, nor will we ever. Our commitment to her will not waver, our demands to see a better life for all those animals like Alice will not change. Still, we will press on, we will always fight for Alice, for it is the right thing to do.
"I think there's a dog living in a wooden box," said the voice on the phone.
And so it all began.
Animal advocates were shocked by what they found when they approached the box in Toombs County, Georgia. The 6-year-old pit bull, nicknamed "Alice" by advocates, had been left to live alone, mired in a world that included the bare minimal human contact and no thought for her well-being. Fed only bread and dirty water like some prisoner of war, this poor soul suffered through every day of her life without hope, without love ... without knowing that she was "man's best friend."
The filth that Alice was forced to live in was, at best, inhumane. Inches of feces covered the ground, and sunlight only found its way in through the spaces between the crudely-made box slats. Her water, lowered into the box by a rope, was dark brown. Her diet consisted of pieces of bread thrown on top of her own waste. Her only retreat, a dark and damp makeshift dog house attached to her cell, provided no relief from the horrid life she lived.
The advocates assumed she was unwanted, and offered to buy the dog from its owner. They were refused.
Under Georgia state statutes:
A person commits the offense of cruelty to animals when he/she causes death or unjustifiable physical pain or suffering to any animal by an act, an omission, or willful neglect. (O.C.G.A. §16-12-4)
Humane care of animals means, but is not limited to, the provision of adequate heat, ventilation, sanitary shelter, and wholesome and adequate food and water, consistent with the normal requirements and feeding habits of the animal's size, species, and breed. (O.C.G.A. §§4-11-2, 4-13-2)
So advocates called the Toombs County Sheriff’s Department, who came to file a report (page 1 / page 2) but did not press charges. Animal advocates insisted the dog be taken to the vet (page 1 / page 2 / page 3). Alice, called "Lil' Mama" by her owners, was found to have heartworms, a potentially fatal disease that is easily prevented.
Animal advocates were frustrated by the lack of action from Toombs County and began to contact local and national media. Before the first television camera reached the house in Toombs County, the box had been demolished and replaced with a chain-link kennel.
Despite a public rally, a petition with more than 29,000 signatures from around the world, celebrity support and pleas to Toombs County officials to follow the law, no charges of animal cruelty have been brought against Alice's owners and she remains in their possession.
We continue to fight for Alice, and to press for animal cruelty charges to be brought against her owner. A new kennel does not negate the "2 ½ to 3 years" of forcing Alice to live in that box, as her owner told 13WMAZ news. We grieve for the years she has missed out on human companionship and love, but we take comfort that our efforts have improved her living conditions.
Latest update: Aug. 7, 2011
As most of you know, Alice was moved to an undisclosed location a couple of months ago. We have been searching for her in an attempt to verify that she is OK, but our search has been met with much resistance.
Over the last few months, since the fire we suffered last April, SoCo has come under attack from those that opposed our fight for Alice. These personal attacks are being led, in part, by Kathy Dart Bradford of the Advance Newspaper located in Toombs Co.. Ms. Bradford, from the start, has opposed our efforts to ensure that Alice is given a better life and has stated that she saw no wrong in the way that Alice was treated or housed. Ms. Bradford and others have even been taunting us about Alice being moved.
While SoCo has continued to search and fight for Alice, our efforts have been limited since the fire due to accusations leveled against us. Complaints have been filed to the Dept. of Agri, who licenses us, in an attempt to have SoCo closed down. But as many of you already know, the DOA has came out, inspected us and cleared us of any wrongdoing. SoCo will make available to anyone the Dept. of Agri inspections. We have nothing to hide.
Regardless of what attempts are made to stop or close SoCo, we will continue to search and fight for Alice, even if I have to do so as a private citizen. I made a commitment to Alice to never stop the fight until I knew she was safe.
Southern Comfort Animal Rescue, Inc.