WILLIS, Texas – Once considered by many to be a reputable sanctuary for an often-misunderstood breed, the Spindletop Pit Bull Refuge is now being seen in a different light.
"It was definitely not a sanctuary. Definitely not. Those dogs were left in a living hell," former Spindletop employee Brandon Louth said.
Louth said he’s the one who blew the whistle, after witnessing – among other things – 38 dogs dying on one occasion.
"The dogs had suffocated, because the building was not ventilated. The electricity had gone off in the building, and basically I had to bury the dogs, put the dogs in sacks and dig a mass grave for them," Louth said.
The Humane Society of the United States seized 298 dogs from the seven-acre property Tuesday night, with the assistance of local authorities.
"Many of them are in cramped cages – so cramped they can’t even turn around. They’re living in their own waste. Many of their cages have been shut for so long, we know these dogs haven’t even been out of their cages," Katie Jarl, with the Humane Society of the United States, said.
"You cannot exist living in your own urine and feces. I watched dogs – we were doing a walk-through – drinking their own urine. A lot of them had absolutely no water, food dumped on feces," Dr. Tim Harkness of the Houston Humane Society said.
The dogs were being treated and evaluated on Wednesday. Meanwhile, calls have been flooding in from all around the country – calls from people who thought they were doing a good thing by sending the dogs to Spindletop.
"New Jersey, California, all around Texas. I think there were a lot of folks looking for a place to save an animal that has become demonized," Constable Tim Holifield of Montgomery County Precinct 3 said.
The gates at Spindletop were closed Wednesday, and the founder, Leah Purcell, was nowhere to be seen.
KHOU 11 News did interview her back in 2003 about her pit bulls.
"There’s no reason to be afraid of them. They’re just really friendly, healthy dogs. And they want to please," Purcell said.
Now, critics are left to wonder what went so terribly wrong with those once-healthy dogs.
If you have taken an animal to the Spindletop Pitbull Refuge and want to inquire about it you are asked to have documents of proof and to email your inquiry to the Montgomery County Precinct 3 Constable at Tim.Holifield@mctx.org.