Six dogs found starved to death in Dillingham animal shelter

Posted: Monday, January 04, 2010

ANCHORAGE - A veterinarian who examined six dogs found dead last month at the now-closed Dillingham dog shelter said the animals were starved and dehydrated.

"I've never seen animals desecrated quite to this extent," said Jim Hagee, a Chugiak veterinarian who frequently practices in Dillingham. "The cannibalism is really what got to me."

Hagee estimates the dogs were left to fend for themselves for four to six weeks. All the deaths could have been prevented, he said.

The six dogs were the entire dog population of the shelter. They were found dead Dec. 8 after police received a tip and a city employee noticed no dog tracks leading to and from the animal shelter.

The city suspended without pay community service officer Travis Barnett, the animal control officer charged with caring for the animals. Police also began a criminal investigation.

Richard Thompson was the city police chief at the time and accompanied the public works director to the abandoned pound, a windowless, old warehouse at the city dockyard. Thompson said in a report that the heat was off. Garbage, tools and feces covered the floor. Decomposed dog carcasses were in cages or curled on the plywood floor.

A black husky found inside a plastic bag was likely one of the first to go, Hagee told police. A 14-week-old Rottweiler puppy wearing a pink camouflage collar was one of the last.

Barnett, reached by telephone Saturday, declined to comment, saying he can't talk about the case until it's over.

"I don't know if I'm being charged yet. I don't know if they're in the process of doing charges," he said.

Police wrote that Barnett admitted to "abandoning his duty to care for or humanely euthanize two dogs in his care," according to a Dillingham police report provided to Hagee.

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