Two of three malnourished dogs are safe tonight, headed to a temporary home after being rescued in the wake of a viral Facebook video exposing their living conditions at a Kiln property.
On Saturday, Clay Ledkins discovered the unhealthy animals, he said, abandoned next door in the backyard of a property located off Highway 603 just north of Kiln DeLisle Rd.
“They always bark,” Ledkins said. “That’s what got my attention. The one stopped barking at me and I knew something was up so I went to check on them.”
Ledkins started recording video with his cellphone as he walked the property in disbelief and posted it to Facebook where it had been viewed just under 9,000 times by late Sunday evening.
What Ledkins said he found were three dogs that were in deplorable health conditions and another dead, lying in a barrel in the backyard.
The ownership of the property and the dogs is still in question.
Ledkins said he fed and watered the dogs and tried calling the Hancock County Animal Shelter to get assistance for the animals before the hard freeze expected this week but they were closed.
Ledkins said a friend then called the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office to report the matter. A deputy came out, Ledkins said, but was not immediately able to find the person legally responsible for the dogs' care.
By late Saturday night, several local animal welfare groups, as well as some from other communities, chimed in on conversations started in the comments of Ledkins’ video. Before he knew, he said, response from the community was overwhelming, with people offering to help with food, water and shelter.
On Sunday, Ledkins went to check on the animals once more and fed and watered them before heading off to work, he said. Ledkins rolled the camera again and took to Facebook, this time, showing a small pile of charred remains
“I couldn't believe it! Someone had moved the barrel and took the dead dog out and burned him,” Ledkins said. His second video also went viral, infuriating dog lovers in the community.
“I was devastated as soon as I saw the dead dog,” registered animal foster parent for the Hancock County Animal Shelter Tracy Stern said. “I immediately felt I had to do something. It was terrible.”
Just before 6 p.m. Sunday, the Hancock County Sheriff’s Office went back out to the property, this time removing two of the three dogs -- one could not be found.
“Our priority today,” Chief Deputy Jeremy Skinner said, “was to ensure the animals were picked up and received the care they needed."
One of the dogs is being fostered, Skinner said, and one is being housed at the shelter.
“We have volunteers who are looking for the other one that got loose and ran away,” he said.
Stern is housing a handicapped female dog, who she says was withering away at the property.
“She looks very emaciated," Stern said. "Her belly is also full of worms She can’t walk. We will set up an appointment to have her vetted tomorrow and go from there."
Friends say the owner of the dogs did not abandon them, but passed away from cancer some time earlier this month.
Skinner said an investigation is ongoing.
“An animal control officer will conduct a follow up on the investigation on Tuesday and try to identify and locate the dogs' owner and look into the possibility of any pending charges."