Woman charged in Macon dog deaths at rescue group

adrury@macon.comNovember 14, 2013 

Macon police have arrested a Bibb County woman on charges related to a fatal dogfight last month at a local animal rescue shelter.

Police Chief Mike Carswell confirmed Thursday night that Crystal Gale Fessler was arrested in connection with the Oct. 17 incident at the All About Animals shelter near Central City Park that left three dogs dead and several severely injured.

Someone went onto the shelter property and let dozens of dogs -- many of them pit bull and bulldog mixes -- out of their pens, resulting in a bloody melee.

Fessler, of Brookhaven Road, was arrested Thursday afternoon and charged with 13 counts of cruelty to animals, criminal trespass and probation violation, according to the Bibb County jail website and the Macon Police Department.

Fessler, 36, remained in custody on a $9,100 bond, according to the jail website.

Carswell said the investigation is ongoing, but he would not say whether he expects other arrests in the case.

Mendy Harrison, a staff volunteer at All About Animals, said members of the rescue were surprised by Thursday’s turn of events.

“We were afraid nothing was going to come of it,” she said of the nearly monthlong investigation.

“These last few weeks, even though we’ve continued on with our rescue efforts, we can now start to have closure,” Harrison said. “We are still waiting on answers. ... We want answers as to why this happened.”

Harrison, who has worked at the no-kill shelter for two and a half years, said she doesn’t know of any connections between Fessler and the animal group.

“She’s not affiliated with our group,” Harrison said, in reference to early speculation that the culprit may have had ties to All About Animals. “I don’t recognize her.”

Harrison praised both the community and the police department for their support over the past several weeks.

“(Police) have been very diligent following tips,” she said, “and we want to thank the community for their support. Without it, we wouldn’t have made it. ... Maybe now we can start feeling safe in our facility again.”

Three days after volunteers discovered the break-in at the shelter, a community vigil drew more than 100 people, including Macon Mayor Robert Reichert, to remember the three dogs killed -- Flapjack, Jack and Butler -- and the other dogs that were physically and psychologically injured.

Harrison said some of the dogs that witnessed the dogfight still have trust issues.

“We’re still working with them, trying to rehabilitate them again,” she said Thursday night.

As much as $18,000 in reward money was offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever was responsible for turning the dogs loose. The national and Atlanta Humane Societies offered $5,000 each, as well as another $8,000 in reward money offered through Macon Regional CrimeStoppers from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and local donations.

Anyone with additional information about this case is asked to call 478-803-2565.

To contact writer Andy M. Drury, call 744-4477.

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