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One of the Toledo Area Humane Society’s newest residents’ sweet personality is a jarring contrast to her physical appearance and gruesome past.
Meesha, a 1-year-old “pit bull,” is emaciated, her skeleton clearly visible beneath her blue and white fur. She was found abandoned last week inside a home in the 1100 block of Montrose Avenue in Toledo.
“She was about as skinny as possible while still being alive,” said Gary Willoughby, executive director of the organization. “If we had been a couple more days getting to her, she likely would have died.”
Another blue and white female “pit bull” had already died in the basement of the house, which a humane society veterinarian confirmed through a necropsy had been the result of starvation and dehydration.
With no access to food or water, Meesha did what she had to do to survive and had eaten part of her dead housemate.
“That may be the only reason she is still alive,” said Nancy Schilb, the animal cruelty investigator who handled the case.
The Toledo Police Department was dispatched to the rental house April 8 after a 911 call indicated a door was left open and that there may be a dog inside in bad shape. The department called the Lucas County Canine Care & Control, but as the dog was inside and not running loose, it did not fit the criteria for being a stray.
Mr. Willoughby said the county shelter then alerted the humane society. The door had since been closed and couldn’t be reopened as the landlord discovered April 9 that the locks had been changed and his keys no longer worked. Ms. Schilb was able to feed the dog treats under the back door and spend a few minutes sweet-talking to her.
After obtaining a search warrant, Ms. Schilb was able to enter the property April 10. Meesha barked nervously at the investigator before recognizing her voice as having been the one that accompanied treats appearing under the door.
“She started wagging her tail,” Ms. Schilb said, noting the dog was friendly and did not struggle while being led away. “She just was happy.”
The house was in complete disarray with a lot of furniture and belongings still inside and garbage strewn about. Making matters worse were feces and urine from the dogs, but the scene was odd for other reasons.
“The television was on and there was a little space heater on in the living room,” Ms. Schilb said. “But no one had been there in a while. It’s like they grabbed a bunch of stuff and left in a big hurry.”
Ms. Schilb found the dead dog lying in the basement, partially eaten.
When Meesha was brought back to the humane society, she weighed in at a measly 33 pounds.
“She should probably weigh double that, I would guess,” Mr. Willoughby said.
The veterinarian could not determine how long the two dogs had been alone or without food and water, but determined the deceased dog had been dead more than 36 hours. Mr. Willoughby said it is possible the dogs were already in bad shape when they were abandoned.
Ms. Schilb is seeking an animal cruelty and an abandonment charge for each dog, a total of four misdemeanors, against Lee Winston, the last person known to have been staying in the house. Mr. Winston is believed to be about 36 years old.
“I was told he may have moved to Sandusky,” Ms. Schilb said. “I’m going to go through my steps and get a citation filed at Toledo Municipal Court, and I’ll see if I can get information from Sandusky and let them know he’s got a case pending here.”
Ms. Schilb said Meesha’s deplorable situation was entirely avoidable as the dog could easily have been surrendered to the humane society, to the county shelter, or to a number of other area rescues if her owner could not care for her and her housemate.
“There’s absolutely no excuse for this,” she said. “It’s definitely cruelty.”
Mr. Willoughby said the humane society sees animals abandoned in houses or yards about every other month. Oftentimes, he said, the cases are at rental properties and the landlords contact the organization when they discover the animals left behind.
“It always seems to look like [the owners] leave in a hurry too,” he said.
Meesha is recovering at the shelter and is being held there while the case continues. She could eventually go up for adoption.
“She’s just a super sweet dog, very friendly,” Mr. Willoughby said.