A woman accused of breaking into the All About Animals rescue shelter in October and releasing several dogs was indicted Tuesday on charges of theft and criminal trespass.
The indictment alleges Crystal Gale Fessler, 36, “knowingly and maliciously” interfered with the possession and use of animals at the shelter, located at 101 Riverside Drive, by entering the shelter and releasing animals on Oct. 16.
The theft charge stems from her releasing the dogs, valued at more than $1,500, said Alex Grubbs, a Bibb County Sheriff’s Office investigator.
Fessler wrongly believed the shelter was a “kill shelter” and “she feared for the safety of the animals,” Grubbs said.
Fessler released the animals so they could “go free and live,” he said.
When arrested in November, Fessler additionally was charged with animal cruelty. Tuesday’s indictment, filed in Bibb County Superior Court, does not include the charge.
Grubbs said investigators don’t think Fessler meant to harm the animals. That intent is required for an animal cruelty charge.
Authorities have said a dog fight ensued at the facility after dogs were freed. Three dogs died and more than a dozen were injured.
The shelter has installed security cameras since the incident and has taken extra steps to secure larger breeds, said Mendy Harrison, a staff volunteer.
Harrison said she’s happy authorities have taken the break-in and its aftermath seriously.
“We are glad that this is starting to proceed forward,” she said.
Dogs injured in the incident have healed physically. Many — even those not injured — have emotional scars from the incident. Volunteers are working to rehabilitate those dogs so they will be better suited for adoption, Harrison said.
The shelter received local and national attention following the incident which has spurred an increase in adoptions and volunteers, she said.
Fessler, who lives on Brookhaven Road in Macon, is being held at the county jail on $13,160 bond, according to jail records.