300 Spindletop dogs saved from "living hell" will be returned to rescuers

Angel - her fate is still unknown.

At least 50 rescue groups and a number of individual rescuers gathered in Conroe, Texas, this morning to attend the custody hearing for 300 dogs seized earlier this week from Spindletop Refuge in Wills, Texas. Prosecutors, law enforcement, the Judge, Spindletop owner Leah Purcell and her attorney Zandra Anderson met throughout the day, apparently to try and work out a deal or settlement. At one point, rescuers were told there was no reason to stay as it was unlikely any of the dogs would be released until next week.

However, late this afternoon an agreement was reached between prosecutors and Spindletop owner Leah Purcell. All 300 dogs seized earlier today, with the exception of Purcell’s personal dogs, were surrendered. The judge then awarded custody of them to HSUS and Montgomery County.

Leah Purcell was given two years probation during which authorities will be keeping an eye on the conditions in which her personal dogs are being kept.  She will never again be allowed to operate a rescue in Montgomery County.  Prosecutors say they plan to press criminal charges.

Whistle-blowers confirmed to those gathered at the courthouse that conditions at the sanctuary resembled “a living hell”.  Several rescuers were told the dogs they had surrendered to Spindletop had been adopted, only to find out today they were a few of the 38 dogs that died of heat stroke in an unventilated building on day last summer.  They were buried in a mass grave on the property.

Officials are still working to catalog all the rescued dogs, most of which are pit bulls. Dogs with microchips will be the easiest to identify and thus the first to be returned to their owners or rescuers.  After that, attempts will be made to identify the remaining dogs using the photos submitted via email.  Montgomery County officials are working on a website where they’ll be posting photos of all of the dogs, and hope to have the site up tomorrow or Sunday.

Montgomery County officials praised HSUS for their fast action and for securing emergency veterinary care for the dogs suffering the most.

Copyright Rebecca Poling 2012. All rights reserved. Email DFWAnimalRescue@att.netif you have a story you’d like to share.

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14 Responses to 300 Spindletop dogs saved from "living hell" will be returned to rescuers

  1. Pingback: Authorities seize 300 pit bulls from Spindletop Refuge - DFW Animal Rescue

  2. dawn pierson says:

    What is the email address to send pics to? I had 2 dogs there!

  3. Send photos of dogs that may have been at Spindletop to Constable Tim Holified at Tim.Holifield@mctx.org.

  4. Sandi says:

    I have adopted 4 pit bulls from Spindletop since 2000. I’ve been to Spindletop when it was located in North Houston. I am in total shock that Leah would allow the dogs to get into such horrific condition. She deserves to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. She brought me a pit bull from Texas to Kentucky in early 2005. When I took that dog to my Vet he had heartworm, which I had him treated. He was in terrible condition, Leah blamed it on a rescue friend of hers who had boarded the dog. I do know she was getting “careless” with the dogs in 2004 , the last time I visited Spindletop. I told her she needed more runs and less dogs in the house. She claimed the dogs inside the house all had medical issues. But, PLEASE, you keep over 50 dogs in a 3 bedroom double wide mobile home? I should have reported her then,but didn’t do anything. Recently, in Dec/Jan I emailed her about adopting another Spindletop pit bully, I told her I WOULD come down there to get my dog. She answered me once by email and I never heard from her again. This is horrible, hard to imagine how someone who started out with such great integrity and compassion for the breeds could turn to to be so neglectful as this. My heart bleeds for these dogs to have lived in such filthy and horrific conditions. She is a b–ch and I hope she gets the punishment she deserves. Two years probation, and allowing her to keep her own personal dogs? That is a slap on the wrist and an outrage to the poor dogs who are the ones who have suffered horribly at Leah Purchell’s hands. Her lawyer should go to jail also, she was well aware of the situation I am sure. May justice for the dogs prevail.

    • that is a verry touthing story

    • michelle anderson says:

      I was at the seizure hearing this past Friday, on behalf of ‘Sophocles’, who I enrolled for the 3 month assessment / training program. The ‘Sanctuary’ was in Willis.
      Microchips are being matched to ‘owners’. Some dogs have been reclaimed and the process is ongoing. I am praying for a phone call any day !!!
      In your comments, you mention a mobile home in north Houston. Do you recall exactly where?
      The investigation has not yet concluded. A Grand Jury and criminal charges are pending.
      Thank you for your reply.

      • Kathy B says:

        Criminal charges? What did this woman do? Burying dogs in your yard is not a criminal offense and neither is death by accident in a building. She didnt steal any money and buy a fancy car. Not sure what criminal charges could come out of this unless you know something the rest of us dont. She didnt kill the dogs or starve them. She cared about them but had way too many, its called too many dogs, not intentional murder. There is a difference in motive.

      • Sandi says:

        I apologize that I no longer have the address for where Spindletop was located in No Houston. It was on Jones Rd but I don’t know which number. Everyone in the area would know because she had a huge sign over the locked security gate with Spindletop Refuge. There was a small convenience store on the back side of the kennels. She would have to have had a license there to operate a refuge and boarding kennel. So there must be conclusive evidence of this in Houston records. Recall Leah supposedly rescued dogs, especially pit bulls, since she was 16yrs old, and she opened Spindletop in 1985. She told me she had a Veterinary Nursing degree. Truth? Who knows, she has fed so many lies to everyone over the years it is no longer easy to tell the truth from the lies. In any case, she knew full well what she was doing to torture the dogs in such inhumane, filthy disgusting and painful circumstances. Did she live in the house with all the smell & filth? One of the Humane officers stated in an article that she had to use a maske to enter the house where 80 dogs were housed in filthy and disgusting, painful and horrible conditions. She stated that you could barely stand to be inside because the smellof ammlonia from urine & feces was so strong. Hopefully more investigations will discover the truth about all of this. I doubt very much that former employees, and former volunteers, and the man who got the police involved were lying. Why would they? If they worked for her they would have been lucky to have even gotten paid as Leah was habitually behind paying her employees, always having excuses. My heart breaks for the dogs who suffered, and for everyone who trusted in her, as I did also for all too many years. If you had a dog with her I pray you find your dog, I pray your dog is alive and ok. Does anyone know if there has been a fund set up yet to help for the dogs medical expenses? I pray the dogs that survive will get loving homes with kind and caring people and not have to go to rescues to linger in kennels or crates once more. Thank you. Please keep us posted as to what you discover, thanks.

    • Kathy B says:

      Things are not always as they seem. One can not believe most of what is written in print. Yes it was too many dogs, but look at a majority that were picked up. They are in good shape, much more so than some of the county and city rescue animals and facilities I have been to and seen. This woman deserves for people to look at the facts fairly. She did not turn off the electric or wish for the dogs to die, she did not starve them or beat them, she just took on too many and who is to blame for that??? It needed to stop, and she has turned them over, something she could have drawn out and didnt have to do, but she wanted what was best for the dogs.

      • Rebecca Poling says:

        Kathy, neglect is also a form of animal cruelty. Yes, she had too many dogs, but to say that is not her fault is unrealistic. It is no ones fault but her own that she accepted everyone of those dogs into her “refuge”, and continued to accept them even after she knew she had too many. She along took responsibility for them and she let them down.

  5. My name is Ciara Hagstrom I am turning 11 years old in 2 months My mom and I were reading your story and Im sorry that happened i wish i could adopt her but we have to many animals we have 1 cat named buddy and a new kitten named renesmee and 1 dog named trixie 1 hamster named thor. and 1 feeder fish named orangie and 1 beta named purplie. And i will surely pray for you! I hope she will find a home soon. Take care and God Bless you.

    Ciara Hagstrom

    • Rebecca Poling says:

      Thank you Ciara, for your comment. I am sorry this happened to, but it makes me happy to know that there are kids like you that care about pets as much as you do. 🙂

  6. Sandi says:

    Neglecting any animal; locking them in dog crates too small where they cannot stand or turn around; where they are not fed or given water; where the animals are standing and lying in their own urine and feces IS CRIMINAL. Have you people no sense in your brain? Is it humane treatment to keep dogs this type of situation nearly 24hrs a day? Is it humane treatment to keep 40 dogs (or more, the authorities have not finished investigating the property) in an unventilated building with no fans, no air conditioning in the extremely high heat and humidity of a Texas summer humane? She had too many dogs, too many animals, she was not only NOT taking proper care of them; she deliberatley left them to die. A person cannot have a moral conscience and do such things. I have been rescuing dogs on my own for 44yrs. and I never ever have kept more than 5 or 6 dogs at a time in my personal possession. Why not? Because I refuse to take in more animals than I can afford to properly feed, Vet, have space and time to care for properly. People who do animal rescue MUST know and understand their limitations, or the animals suffer instead of getting helped. And, in addition, Leah Purcell and James Brewer have scammed sincere pet lovers and rescue people by lying to them, taking their money, and LOts OF IT, and not taking care of the dogs they took in, and instead, sentencing the dogs to die a slow, painful death. How can anyone in their right mind have pity on people who do such things? What Leah and her boyfriend, and her lawyer have done is pure EVIL. I have been praying for Leah to change her ways since I first went to Spindletop in No Houston in year 2000. I told her countless times to stop taking in animals, to stop keeping them in crates for such long periods of time. To build more kennels for them, and to clean out flammable materials she had stored in one of the kennel buildings. Within a year of my telling her that (I was in the building myself),she had a fire in that very building and several dogs died in the fire. She should have been closed down then. But, she wormed her way of out it. Her father, who died in year 2008, Dec, was extremely wealthy and left her quite a large inheritance. So she had the means to buy that farm in Willis, and she had the means to take care of the dogs she already had. What did she do with the money???? It apparently didn’t get spent on the dogs. Another thing that has shown up is that she didn’t keep records. Again, rescues are requried by law to keep records of dogs taken in, and adopted out,and to keep financial records. How did she get away with not doing this?? Frankly,this entire horror she had done reeks of drugs being involved. ??? Who knows, hopefully, as the investigation continues the real truth will be brought forth. I used to admire and respect Leah, but not anymore. She is a low life to do what she did, and her boyfriend, and her lawyer too. Her lawyer is not just some hired attorney, but a personal friend of Leah’s for many years, at least since I met Leah in April 2000. That lawyer would have been well aware of everything going no at Spindletop, with the dogs and with the money. It appears to me that she was involved in the scamming and she should be disbarred. And, BTW, I am one of those people who used to donate to Spindletop, I sent $1,000. in year 2002 for Leah to build some kennels, but I have no idea if she did or not. When I went their in 2004 July, she did have some new kennels, but not as many as she needed. Again, the was overcrowded with dogs. Her house had dogs stacked in crates in every room, and she even kept a dog in the bathroom as she ran out of crates. This is insanity. Anyone who is a sincere rescue person, who is not doing it for fame, or to build a reputation for thier ego, and who wants to really help the dogs/animals, they will not overcrowd and they will know when to stop taking in animals. It is kinder to euthanize a pet at a reputable Veterinarian than to subject them to a slow and agonizing death by starvation, dehydration, filth and abandonment. Has no one considered how these dogs must have felt? They went from being abandoned by whoever had them, some abused, to being starved to death and who knows what else they had to endure at Spindletop. Leah tried to fool people who went to her place by keeping some dogs in good condition that visitors could see. But she did not allow anyone who visited or brought dogs to her to go inside the house or inside the kennel buildings or barns. Go and read some of the comments from people who sent dogs to her, who brought dogs to her, and feel their pain and anger and most yet not knowing if their dogs survived or not. This is a major travesty to the breed, to rescues and to the dogs who had to live in hell at Spindletop. There were 3 dogs I wanted to adopt from her in 2009, I have no idea if they survived, I would like to know because I have donated a lot of $$ to try to help Spindletop dogs over the years. My heart is broken, I am devestated, and I am crying for the suffering that the dogs experienced. Leah obviously did not want me going down to Spindletop in Jan when I told her I would drive down there from Kentucky to adopt a pitbull. She KNEW full well if I had gone and discovered the horror there I would surely have turned her in. So she cut off communication with me. I know she is cold and calculating, she is selfish and she puts on a big act to everyone that she is nice and cares so much. It is a farce. I think her drinking habit has destroyed her brain cells, and in any case, she had committed criminal acts against the dogs and people. I have no pity on her or her boyfriend or lawyer. I stopped praying for her and I gave her up to God for her punishment. Thank you, I pray the courts force the farm to be sold to repay those who were scammed and to pay for medical and other expenses to help the dogs who have survived the horror. May they be blessed with a new home and loving, caring owners.

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