Non-fatal: Boxer story highlights a scourge

If one thing is clear from the recent dog abuse case in which a boxer was allegedly dropped 27-feet from a bridge onto railroad tracks with her front legs bound, it is this: Charlottesville doesn't take kindly to animal abuse.

By Monday, August 11, the reward for information leading to the perpetrator had shot up to $15,000– nearly as much as the $20,000 reward offered for the serial rapist– and even activists with animal rights group PETA were amazed by the outpouring of support for the dog.

"We received many calls from local residents who were upset by the incident," says PETA spokesperson Jean Gaultier. After looking into it, PETA decided to offer a $5,000 reward.

"This is the kind of case we prioritize," he says, "because the person that did this is still at large the community is not safe as long as this guy is still out there."

The condition of the dog and the injuries she sustained conjure up a hideous picture of long-term neglect, finalized by a brutal act of violence.

Dr. Michael Rose, a veterinarian at Monticello Animal Hospital, was among the first to see the dog, who was brought in by animal control officers after being discovered by railroad workers.

"My technician," he recalls, "who is usually a strong person, was in the room crying and saying, 'I can't believe someone could do something so awful to an animal.'"

Along with a significant head wound (though not a gunshot wound, as has been reported) and fractured teeth, both tibia bones in the animal's back legs were broken. Rose feels it's unlikely that happened in the fall.

"The breaks were symmetrical," says Rose, suggesting that someone had struck her across the legs.

In addition to the trauma, Rose says the dog– found July 24 on Norfolk Southern tracks in southern Albemarle– was underweight, dehydrated, and had three types of intestinal parasites. Despite all this, Rose says she was "very easy" to work with.

And, unlike many other animal abuse stories, this one has a happy ending.

After a television segment on the dog aired, Rose says he was inundated with calls including one from Jan Bas Van Beek, a local real estate agent whose family loves boxers. Not only did Van Beek want to give the dog a loving home, his brother-in-law, Dr. Ed Fallin, is a veterinarian at the Veterinary Referral and Critical Care hospital in Goochland County.

Before Rose knew it, Van Beek had arranged for the boxer he named Britta to receive the orthopedic surgery she needed in order to have a full recovery.

Though Van Beek was not available to return calls before presstime, his brother-in-law Fallin says it's like a fairy tale.

"It's a super dog going to a super guy and his wife," he says, "She'll be incredibly well cared for."

As happy as he is about Britta, Fallin says he hopes people realize she's just a drop in the bucket.

"So many animals succumb to abuse on a day to day basis," he says.

It's an issue he wishes people would take more seriously because violent criminals often start out as animal abusers.

"If a person has so much anger that he or she is committing violence toward animals," says forensic psychologist Dr. John Boyd, "that anger can spill over into other areas of their life."

While most animal abusers don't end as serial killers, he says there should still be concern.

"The idea here," says Boyd, who consults on criminal cases throughout the state, "is if someone has completely lost control of their ability to contain anger and rage, they're in big trouble– and so are we because they're the people who tend to commit acts of violence indiscriminately."

Anyone with information on the case should call the shelter at 973-5959 or the Albemarle County Police at 977-9041. All calls will be kept confidential.