Abandoned, abused dogs becoming a growing concern in Central Ohio
A dog was left to fend for itself for months and ended up losing more than half its body weight. It's just one of a growing number of animal cruelty cases across central Ohio.
Rescuers from the Ross County Humane Society and the county dog warden are taking pet owners to court, but say that isn't solving the growing problem.
If dogs could talk, Levi would have a heart-wrenching tale. His skin-and-bones physique tells just part of it. Pictures from his rescue speak volumes.
"He was standing up on the floor, had his front paws on a sink," said Pam Longlott, Ross County Deputy Dog Warden.
It's how Longlott met the boxer-mix one Saturday night in August, at a small house on Trego Creek Road in Chillicothe.
"I could tell Levi was actually completely emaciated and dehydrated," said Longlott.
She says a passerby first spotted Levi and a judge quickly signed off on her to go in and get him from the home.
"I could reach Levi with the very tips of my right hand through the window," said Longlott.
Levi had been alone inside the house for at least three months, according to Longlott. Longlott says it was an abandoned property and an abandoned life.
"It was filled with trash and dried feces. There was no airflow, no running water in the house. We didn't find any other medical reason to cause this issue, only that the people left him to starve," said Longlott.
Levi should be 80 pounds, but weighed less than half that.
"He'd been breaking down muscle in order to survive," said North Fork Animal Clinic Veterinarian Dr. Blake Lloyd.
Dr. Lloyd says there was nothing else medically wrong with Levi.
"Blood work was run. X-rays were run. Everything was done. He checks out just fine, which only leaves starvation," said Dr. Lloyd.
It's a sore sight for caring eyes.
"It seems to be getting worse," said Longlott.
Levi joins a growing list of dogs found at death's door in Ross County. The Ross County Humane Society and the county dog warden typically see one or two a month.
In August alone there were 12.
"We carried Hugo in. He was too weak to stand on his own four legs," said Longlott.
Hugo did not make it.
"Our animals are considered property, rather than individuals, which makes it kind of tricky when prosecuting cases like this because it's kind of just like leaving your car outside," said Dr. Lloyd.
Longlott says there's an easy fix with food that's free under a public dog food program. But believes some people become overwhelmed and forget about vet and home care, while others know the punishments are lenient.
"The laws definitely need to be tougher. The court system needs to be tougher there needs to be a lot higher penalties for it," said Longlott.
In Levi's case, Longlott charged his owners, Chuck and Jody Leach, with abandoning Levi and animal cruelty.
"They never did give a good reason other than they had some issues going on in the marriage. So, they left the property and, of course, Levi paid for it," said Longlott.
Now, Jody Leach is paying for her crime. She was sentenced last week to 14 days in jail after changing her plea to guilty. Longlott says Jody claimed she visited the house two nights before Levi's rescue.
"She did state she knew Levi was in the condition and she should have done something," said Longlott.
ABC 6/FOX 28 went to an address for Chuck Leach and he answered the door, but declined an interview.
"When I showed him the pictures, because he had said he hadn't seen the dog since November, he actually got sick," said Longlott.
Progress is slow and steady for Levi.
"He should recover without problems," said Dr. Lloyd.
Levi has an eagerness to show his love for his rescuers. The hope is he'll develop the same affection with a new family.
"You'll make a beautiful boy for someone aren't ya," said Longlott.
Longlott says the Leaches had a second dog in healthy condition they had adopted from the Ross County Humane Society that she removed from the family.
As for Levi, he is with rescuers in Dayton, where they're working with him on his severe separation anxiety and aggression toward humans. The Humane Society says if the aggression can't be resolved, then he'll have to be put down.
The Ross County Humane Society also says Chuck Leach did not accept a plea deal Wednesday morning, that included the same jail time his wife received last week. He's expected back in court for trial in November.