2011-04-08 / Front Page

Hoarder causes dogs to die

By Julia Rogers Hook

When shots rang out in an otherwise quiet Cayce neighborhood March 29, neighbors flocked to the streets to see what was going on. They found police cars and animal control trucks parked up and down the street, and officers were attempting to enter the home of Dennis Reidy, a man most residents only knew by his first name, Dennis.

“We really didn’t know what to think,” Stella Owens, a neighbor, said. “I don’t really know Dennis, but he always seemed to care about his dogs. He would always ask us if we had seen them when they got out of his yard.”

It was the dogs’ escapes from a home on Congaree Drive that first drew the attention of Cayce Police to Reidy, said Lt. Jeff Simmons in a press report issued after neighbors and animal advocates were up in arms about what some people feared was another Chesterfield County atrocity.

The animal shelter in Chesterfield, South Carolina, was closed in early March after volunteers discovered that employees were shooting dogs instead of humanely euthanizing them. That shelter remains closed and an investigation of all of the accused county employees is ongoing.

Although police and animal control officers literally went door to door to explain that they were there on a rescue mission, rumors of alleged random shootings flew, and all local news organizations received emails and phone calls asking for an investigation.

“A co–worker came to me today and told me about a situation that took place on her street last night,” one email read. “She said Cayce Animal Control went to a house on her street last night to seize dogs from a man she believes was hoarding them. But she was in tears because she said there were 12 shots that were fired. She believes the dogs were shot.”

Unfortunately, there were dogs that had to be shot, but it was not until after a five– hour period where officers and animal control tried in vain to use tranquilizers, net poles, and other non–lethal means to catch the dogs that had been found living in deplorable conditions.

“ The interior of the house was covered in a putrid vile mixture of feces and urine that was several inches thick in numerous locations, making living conditions a torture chamber for any living animal,” Simmons said in his press release.

“All of the windows had been covered, thus preventing light from entering, and the bottom part of the interior walls had been eaten through by the dogs which allowed them to attack the officers from multiple angles,” Simmons said.

The smell was so bad that officers had to don breathing apparatus and respirators in order to enter the residence. The electricity had been turned off, and there was no visible means of water for the animals.

Cayce Police Chief Charles McNair said the smell was so bad that people on the street in front of the house could smell it. It was only after an officer was so viciously attacked he had to be taken to the hospital that the dogs were shot, McNair said.

“I have dogs myself, and I love animals,” the Chief said. “This man Reidy made those animals vicious by the way he treated them. No water, no light, and he must have just come by occasionally and tossed enough food for them to live on.”

Tracy Johnson, director of operations for Pawmetto Lifeline, formerly Project Pets, said the Reidy situation was, unfortunately, not an uncommon one and was almost always a mental health issue.

“Animal hoarders do care for the animals emotionally, and they tend to feel like they are better off with them, even in these deplorable conditions instead of at a shelter where they may be put down.”

She said she wasn’t surprised at the dogs’ behavior toward the officers.

“They had no exposure to people, no socialization, and only saw the one man who fed them,” Johnson said.” It’s a sad situation because they could have probably found a loving home where they would have been cared for.”

Neighbors were shocked to discover such mistreatment going on in their own backyards.

“I know two of Dennis’s dogs,” said a woman who lived a few houses away. “Their names were Sugar and Tootsie, and they were never aggressive, and they looked healthy to me.”

Johnson said that the animals were not malnourished, but food is only part of a pet owner’s responsibility.”

“The dogs we have from the home were well fed, but they very probably never had any medical care. They were kept inside all the time with no light or water and very little human contact. When dogs live like that, they become territorial and will attack to survive. It’s all they know.”

McNair said it was true that not all of the animals were mean, but all of them were living in horrible conditions.

“Not all the dogs were aggressive, and we were able to save six of them including four from the back yard. Those poor animals were in a makeshift tent that had never been cleaned, and the floor was covered in their wastes.”

Two dogs were kept in a room by themselves, McNair said.

“Maybe he thought he was protecting them, but they still had no water or food,” the Chief sighed. “I don’t have a clue what the man was thinking.”

Officers took out a window unit air conditioner to get those two out, and both dogs came right to them, the Chief said.

One email accused the city of Cayce of “tarping” the entryway to the home after shooting the dogs. The chief said that never happened.

“There were some kids playing nearby, so we did wrap the dogs we had to destroy in tarp so they wouldn’t see the bodies,” McNair said. “Our people made an extensive effort to tell the neighbors what was happening. No one ever denied that some of the dogs had to be shot, but it wasn’t our choice. It was the only way to save the rest.”

Some of the rescued dogs still had to be euthanized due to health issues, and the others were placed with Pawmetto Lifeline for adoption after rehabilitation.

Johnson said the Reidy scenario was all too common and always heartbreaking.

“The people make the choices for the animals,” she said. “In their warped way of reasoning, they think they are helping the animals and saving them. But they are just setting them up for failure and, sadly, a lot of times, they have to be euthanized.”

Reidy was arrested Friday, April 1 and charged with seven counts of maltreatment of animals and one count of maintaining a public nuisance.

“Those dogs we had to put down were tortured and, frankly, I wish we had more charges to throw at Reidy,” he said. “He turned animals that probably could have been great pets into attack dogs, probably killers. If they had gotten out of that house, I don’t even want to think what could have happened in that neighborhood.”

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