Dogs suffer grisly wounds in mystery abuse

Dogs suffer grisly wounds in mystery abuse
SAND CANYON, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) — Kyle Howell says his dogs are more than just companions, they're family.

Maybell is the oldest, and mother to a few of Howell's other nine dogs. Her pup, Sissy, ran away in December. Although returned after only one day, Sissy had to be treated for severe lacerations to her neck and mouth.

Dr. Beverly Billingsley of Billingsley Veterinary Clinic said the injuries were alarming, but they were nothing compared to what would happen when Sissy escaped again, just a month later.

"I walked to the door, and she was just standing there," said Howell. "It was a nightmare, an absolute nightmare."

With an injury Billingsley described as consistent with blunt-force trauma, Sissy received severe injuries to her face and mouth.

"It looked like someone had taken a shovel and tried to chop the front of her nose off," said Billingsley.

Although the dog lost her upper incisors and part of her nose, Sissy made a nearly complete recovery. On April 1, Sissy's mother, Maybell, escaped the yard and returned after less than two days. Howell brought her to Billingsley's office with traumatic injuries to her neck. She had broken bones, torn muscles and a gashed neck.

"It looked like someone had tried to skin her," said Howell.

Billingsley is convinced the dogs were not hit by a car or attacked by another animal; she believes someone is directly responsible.

"It wasn't a bite wound, because it wasn't a sharp edge," said Billingsley. "And it wasn't a knife, because it wasn't that sharp, so it was obviously blunt force, most likely a shovel."

Billingsley wrote a letter to the Kern County Sheriff's Office: "It is a well-documented connection that violence to animals leads to violence against people."

The doctor fears that whoever attacked Howell's dogs wouldn't hesitate to do the same to a human being.

"Serial killers start by killing animals," said Billingsley, "so I don't know if there's just a sick person back there, (but) what's happening, it's just not acceptable."

It seems clear the dogs have made a miraculous recovery, but what remains are lasting scars. Howell said he's afraid to let his dogs roam free and has noticed a difference in their demeanor.

"They're leery. They're not the same personality," said Howell. "Maybelle is my little hero. Love is the only thing that brought that girl home. She had really had it."

The dogs may have made a seemingly miraculous recovery, but for Howell, the story doesn't have a happy ending just yet. Three more of his dogs have been missing since escaping with Maybell on April 1. He fears the worst but still hopes they'll return unscathed.

"It's hard to understand that there are people out there who are willing to cause harm, and I guess I really feel sorry for those people. They've never felt the love of a dog or companion to understand the depth of their actions," said Howell.

A case has been opened with the Kern County Sheriff's Office, and the investigation is ongoing.