Vigil draws candlelit crowd to mourn dogs

Possible dogfighting crime denounced at shelter

jgaines@macon.comOctober 20, 2013 

Among more than 100 others, Sidney Sowell of Macon clutched a small white candle as she moved toward an awning at the front of the All About Animals no-kill rescue shelter Sunday evening.

Beneath the white awning was a table bearing pictures of three dogs, now dead: American bulldog mixes named Butler, Jack and Flapjack.

“It makes me extremely angry and sad, what happened to these dogs,” Sowell said.

She came to donate supplies and money and to show her support for the shelter at 101 Riverside Drive, motivations undoubtedly shared by most of the crowd.

“It’s very inspirational, with Macon banding together to show that this will not be tolerated -- that these were not ‘just dogs,’” Sowell said.

In a short speech, Mayor Robert Reichert said someone broke through the shelter’s front gate late Wednesday night or early Thursday morning, and released 20 to 30 dogs from their cages.

“We don’t know this for a fact, but whoever broke in may have brought dogs with them,” he said. The purpose may have been to train for dogfighting; in addition to the three dogs killed, 15 were injured, with eight of them requiring extensive veterinary care. Volunteers at the shelter said most of the injured dogs suffered bite marks and puncture wounds.

Donations have since poured in to All About Animals “from all over the world,” said Mary Crawford, the rescue organization’s executive director. Those include at least $2,000 cash, food, medical supplies, bedding and toys, volunteers said. Several Macon-area security companies stepped up to offer a free security system for the facility, which had no surveillance in place when the break-in happened. But beyond the physical needs being addressed, Sunday’s ceremony was an emotional symbol for the community, organizer Kerri Hatcher Fickling said.

“This is a candlelight vigil to mourn the loss of the three dogs that were killed, and to pray for the speedy recovery of the souls that were injured,” she said.

Several local pastors spoke at the ceremony, led off by the Rev. Antonie Walker of Grace Corner United Methodist Church. He prayed for “swift justice,” but also for the “transformation” of the perpetrator, not just retribution. Walker also sought the speedy recovery of the injured animals and further support for the shelter.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is offering up to $5,000 for information leading to the arrest of those responsible.

Those interested in donating cash or items to All About Animals can do so through its Facebook page, www.facebook.com/allaboutanimalsmacon.

Anyone with information about the break-in is asked to call Macon Regional CrimeStoppers at 877-68-CRIME.

To contact writer Jim Gaines, call 744-4489.

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