5 puppies found in barbecue pit

Photo by Dale Usher

Four puppies explore a pickup truck bed after a custodian rescued them from inside a concrete block barbecue pit at First Presbyterian Church in Mayfield. Five puppies were removed from the pit. A passerby adopted one before the others were taken to the Mayfield-Graves County Animal Shelter.

Mayfield police are investigating after someone left five puppies in a church barbecue pit. At least one is now sick.

A Mayfield First Presbyterian Church custodian discovered the puppies Monday morning.

"He was near the Dumpster, taking out the morning trash, and heard the puppies crying over in the barbecue pit, right next to the Dumpster," said Dale Usher, an elder at the church.

The puppies had apparently been in a laundry basket that was placed inside the concrete block pit, which the church uses a few times a year for fundraisers and other church functions.

"They had gotten out of the laundry basket and were just kind of running around inside the barbecue pit," Usher said.

Inside the basket was a paper plate on which someone had written the words "Free Puppies." Usher theorized that when an owner couldn't get rid of the puppies, they were left in the pit.

The barbecue pit is far enough from the church that it's possible they were there during Sunday services, but nobody heard them.

"They could have been there several days," Usher said. "They were very poor looking. They looked like they had not eaten or drank in quite some time."

A different church custodian, Hal Stephens, put the puppies in the back of his truck until the Mayfield-Graves County Animal Shelter could be contacted to take possession of them. While waiting for contact from the shelter, a woman drove by, saw the puppies and decided to take one of them home for herself.

Usher said he was stopping by the post office Monday morning and saw Stephens' truck. He snapped a picture of the puppies and posted what happened on Facebook.

Mayfield Police Chief Nathan Kent said that although no report had initially been taken, the police department was now aware of what happened and had an assigned an investigator to determine whether the animals being left in the pit fit the criminal elements of second-degree cruelty to animals, a class A misdemeanor. KRS 525.130 defines the offense as when someone intentionally or wantonly causes cruel or injurious treatment to an animal through abandonment, neglect, tormenting it, mutilating it, failing to provide adequate food, drink, space or health care for it, or causing it to fight for pleasure or profit.

Usher was upset by the puppies' abandonment.

"What was really aggravating is they could have probably walked 2½ or three blocks and dropped them at the humane society, and none of this would have happened," he said.

Martha Thomas, president of the animal shelter's board of directors, called the puppies' condition OK.

"We had them to the vet," she said. "We were worried about them because they have a cough. One of them has parvo, and the other three have not broken with it yet, but that doesn't mean they won't. They are very wormy. They are very thin. Even though they had big bellies, they were full of worms. They're going to take a lot of TLC for a month or more to get them up to par."

Of the four puppies the shelter has, one is male, and the other three are female. The shelter has named them Brady, Tilly, Annie and Cassie. Brady is the one diagnosed with parvo.

Parvo is a contagious virus often common to dogs in dirty living conditions, Thomas said. It causes intestinal upset and dehydration and can be fatal, especially to young puppies.

"That is very expensive to treat, and our options are limited, but right now we're treating the one," Thomas said. "Hopefully we got it early, I think."

All animals who come through the door are vaccinated for diseases, including parvo, but it can take a week for symptoms to show. The puppy diagnosed with parvo is in an isolation unit at the shelter.

"The vet did not see the need to hook up an IV right now and just gave us the medication," she said.

The puppies appear to be 6 to 8 weeks old, Thomas said. Although it is difficult to tell with their young age, she said they appear to be pit bull mixes.

The shelter is in need of donations, Thomas said. Donors may give online at www.mayfieldshelter.com/donate and may specify that donations be used for the First Presyterian puppies, if they so desire. For more information, call the shelter at 270-251-0130.