Saturday, December 26, 2015

An animal tragedy in rural Arkansas makes national news

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post picked up a tragic story out of rural Arkansas this week.  Here's the lede from Katie Rogers' story in the Times, headlined "After Dozens of Dogs are Left Dead in the Woods, an Arkansas Town Rallies."  
The dogs had been lying on the ground for days before they were found last Thursday [December 17]. They numbered 62 or 63, adult mutts whose bodies were strewed around deep woods in part of northern Arkansas where almost no one goes. 
One of the few surviving dogs had been shot through the collarbone and jaw. Another survivor appeared to have been a pet. 
The dozens who did not survive had been fed hot dogs stuffed with sleeping pills before they were shot with a .22 rifle.
No one has reported exactly where the dogs were found, except to say Searcy County and to indicate that the dogs were "stumbled upon by men visiting the secluded area to price timber."  Searcy County, population 7,929, is a persistent poverty county in the Ozarks Highlands, with a poverty rate of 26.1%.  It is virtually all white.  The dateline of one Associated Press report was Chimes, which wikipedia tells us is an unincorporated community that straddles Searcy and Van Buren counties.  

Sarah Larimer's story in the Washington Post includes this quote from County Sheriff Joey Pruitt (no known relation to me, though I grew up in neighboring Newton County):
Just right now, you know, my thought is it was probably someone that was maybe rescuing dogs or some sort of rescue operation that probably just ran out of funds and couldn’t feed them.  I don’t know. I don’t think it’s some kind of organization that’s going around stealing people’s pets. Most of the dogs appeared to be in good health. There were a few that appeared to be malnourished. But for the most part, they were healthy looking dogs.
Larimer's report also includes more forensic-type details of how the dogs were found.   

Rogers describes the Searcy County Animal Shelter: 
Six of the survivors were taken to the Humane Society of Searcy, where volunteers work out of a pole barn and feed animals, in part, from proceeds from a tip jar.
The treasurer of the local animal shelter is quoted:
We’ve had lots of people come in and just hand us money, bring us food.
As the NYT headline suggests, Rogers also plays up the community response, and she notes the response of national animal welfare organizations, which is presumably one reason the story got picked up in the national media.   A total reward of about $10K is now on offer for information about who committed this crime.

The episode has me thinking more about how rural spatiality conceals (read more here)--in this case the crime of animal cruelty--even in a place where animal rights are not taken very seriously.  It also reminds me of this piece in the NYT a few years ago.  It is about the movement of surplus mutts from the rural South, where people tend to be poor and institutional funds to care for the dogs are in shorter supply, to the northeast, where many in cities wish to adopt these dogs.  Read more here.  Too bad whoever killed these dogs in Searcy County didn't know about that operation.  

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