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Authorities have suspects in dog-skinning case

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DIANA BUCKLEY
Ellis County Press

FERRIS - An Alvis Lane family was devastated on Dec. 12 when their eight-year-old chocolate Labrador was found mutilated in a neighbor's field. 'We let him out Monday night to use the bathroom,' said Charleen Johnson, the dog's owner.

'He never came home. On Tuesday, the little boys across the street found him.'

Johnson said the dog was severely mutilated. 'A chunk of meat was missing behind his neck,' she said, sobbing.

'His penis was cut off. He was skinned to look like a brisket on one side.' Johnson said there were machete-like hack marks along the dog's back.

Johnson is filing charges against neighbors in the killing. The police report listed two 10-year-old boys as suspects.

'We had another dog that attacked their rooster,' she said.

'We offered to pay for it, but they wouldn't talk to us.' Johnson said the neighbors had made death threats against her animals.

Johnson was unhappy with sheriff's department response. 'It took them 4 ½ hours to come look at his body,' Johnson said.

'They didn't even have a camera. We had to get a camera to take a picture of our own dog.'

According to the county's animal control ordinance, it is a Class C misdemeanor to allow a dog to run loose. 'No person owning, possessing or harboring any dog shall permit such dog to run at large within this county at any time,' the ordinance states.

'Every unrestrained dog or dog found to be running at large shall be considered a nuisance. A person commits an offense if he fails or refuses to restrain any animal of which he is the owner, or if he permits his animal to cause a nuisance.'

Sheriff's department officials also said a homeowner is within his rights to destroy an unrestrained animal when it poses a threat to humans or livestock. Johnson said the area has been plagued by a pack of wild dogs and other livestock losses. 'Grandma has lost 21 goats in the last eight months,' she said.

'Some cut up, some attacked by wild dogs.'

The mutilation of the animal may or may not have been the result of a cultic ritual. 'Usually the cults will take the eyes or the genitals,' said one animal control officer.

'I've never heard of them skinning one, but you never know.'

Johnson said the chocolate Labrador was the fifth dog lost by the family in the last few months. 'We had a pound puppy,' she said. 'He came home with the worst case of worms I've ever seen.' The spaniel-mix dog turned out to have Parvo. Before he recovered, Johnson's three newborn puppies were dead.

Once recovered, the spaniel began killing chickens.

'They have fighting cocks down there,' Johnson said. 'This dog attacked. We gave him away because of it. We just can't have a dog eating the neighbor's chickens. My husband even considered putting him down.' Johnson indicated the spaniel was given away the same day the Labrador was killed.

The loss of the Labrador left the family with only one dog.

'My six-year-old is asking for another dog for Christmas,' Johnson said.

She was discouraged after learning it would cost as much as $1,000 to replace the dog. But a McKinney breeder who heard of the incident came to the rescue, giving the family a chocolate Labrador she had advertised for sale for $300.

'I'm surprised he's asking for another dog,' Johnson said of her son. 'But maybe that's the best thing for him.'

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