A photo posted on Facebook appeared to show a malnourished dog in the backyard of a St. Joseph home.
As previously reported, the photo caused a private organization, Best Life Animal Rescue, to attempt to get the dog’s owner to surrender the animal.
St. Joseph Animal Control Humane Educator Jennifer Lockwood told News-Press NOW on Thursday that animal control has been in contact with the owner, Heather Przybyski, and that she is in compliance with all city ordinances. Przybski said the dog was sick, not malnourished.
“I’m doing my best and they (Przybyski owns two dogs) are very well taken care of,” she said. “I have lots of help if I need it.”
“I don’t feel safe even going outside now, everybody has my address now,” she said. “There’s been people who’ve threatened to come to my house and steal my animals.”
Lockwood said there is still an ongoing animal control investigation into the case, and that the agency has been providing support like dog food to Przybyski.
According to Przybski, her contact with animal control predates the release of the Facebook photo. That Facebook poster, Brandon Brownfield, said he told an animal control officer who responded to the residence, “if you leave him here he will die.”
Lockwood said animal control officers have discretion on whether or not to seize an animal, but the agency prefers to keep pets with their owners if possible.
“It’s not always the best thing to just take animals away from them,” Lockwood said. “Our job is to help keep animals in home and give people the resources they need.”
According to Lockwood, while all seizures are dependent on the particular circumstances, to have an animal removed would require a “dire” situation. If animal control does seize an animal, Lockwood said a civil court hearing is then held. She added that she’s “pretty certain” an animal control officer can take an animal without a court order.
Lockwood added that the private rescue’s intervention may not have been helpful in this particular case.
“There’s been some varying information about how much they’re helping this individual,” she said.
In a previous report, an assistant for Best Life Animal Rescue, Leslie Wheeler, told News-Press NOW that private rescues can sometimes be a better alternative to animal control because they don’t charge a surrender fee and can give individualized attention to animals.
“If an owner is just looking to re-home an animal, a rescue is a great option,” Lockwood said. “The shelter should be a last resort in surrendering an animal.”
Best Life Animal Rescue Owner Anthony Vance said his group, “has made it known that we are here to make sure she is held accountable if the dog’s health does not improve.”
As far as a surrender fee, which ranges between $10 to $40, Lockwood said they will work with patrons who can’t afford it.
For Przybski, the whole ordeal has taken its toll.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong,” she said.