Officials begin taking animals out of nonprofit agency

Tuesday, October 24th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

TULSA, Okla. (AP) -- The founder of a nonprofit animal rescue agency said authorities are wrong for removing hundreds of cats and dogs from her facility due to health problems since the animals were in bad shape when they came to her.

"They receive the highest standard of humane care. It's second to none in the animal-rescue sector," said Hope Harder, founder of Hope for the Animals.

But Harder does not run the day-to-day operation of the facility, which a veterinarian determined contained animals with mange, missing limbs, eye disease, upper respiratory disease and other ailments, said Tulsa County Sheriff's Sgt. Sherri Carrier.

The sheriff's office began removing about 300 dogs and cats from the facility Monday.

The dogs and cats had overrun the interior of the rural house, the property's fenced exterior, and two barns behind the house, Carrier said.

She said animals were also packed in groups of three and four in portable pet carriers.

Hazel Pitcock, the property's owner and manager of Hope for the Animals, was not arrested Monday, but Capt. Greg Turley said his office would turn over reports of the investigation to the Tulsa County District Attorney's Office for consideration of criminal charges.

The sheriff's office was working with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to place as many of the animals as possible in animal shelters.

Carrier said the conditions of many of the dogs would disqualify them from being accepted at shelters, meaning as many as half would likely be euthanized.

Undersheriff Bill Thompson reported that some were euthanized at the scene.

Officials said some dogs were eating other dogs, while some appeared to be malnourished and most appeared not to have received sufficient water.

Harder said she spends about $475 a week on dog food alone and denied reports of dogs eating dogs.

Wanda Beaty Brown said she was impressed by Hope for the Animals' operation when she adopted a German shepherd there three months ago, claiming the foundation even paid for expensive medical treatment for the dog.

"They found what they found because people bring her the very worst," Brown said of Pitcock.

Dr. Chris Kelley of the Owasso Veterinary Hospital said Pitcock brings animals to his business for treatment "literally every day of the week." He said veterinarians in the area have a high opinion of Harder, but admitted he hadn't seen her operation himself.