By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT – When Pete invited me to join his writing team he said, “You can write about whatever you want to…” within reason, of course, and most of the time I write about politics because that’s just what I do. But something else has been on my mind this week so I hope you’ll indulge me this brief deviation from politics.
April is Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals Month so I want to take a moment to acquaint you with a local case that has captured the hearts of my local community. Meet Braveheart (there is a happy ending, so keep reading):
September 11, 2013 a dog was found in an abandoned storage locker in Shreveport, chained to a car and likely moments away from death. The hottest day of the year in September in Shreveport was on September 3 with 103 degrees; typically we have many days over 100 degrees around that time of year. Can you imagine what the temperature must have been in that storage locker? There was no ventilation, no food, and no water for the dog; he was just waiting to die.
The owner of the storage property went into the unit because the renter had lapsed on his payments. When he went in he saw what he thought was a dead dog. It was only when he went to remove the body that he realized this dog was alive.
The following narrative of what happened next is from A Voice for Braveheart:
“He was only hours if not minutes from death as he could only move his eyes. He was rushed to the vet and somehow survived. Someone that played a critical role in his recovery stated ‘human hands did this, human hands should fix it’. He was given life saving medical care immediately and a miracle happened, he began healing. He was named…….Braveheart.
After a 2 week stay at the ER clinic he came to stay with our family. He only weighed 8 pounds when he was found.”
A number of local organizations and people worked hard to save Braveheart’s life, among them Bo and Ronda Spataro who agreed to foster Brave during his recovery. Ronda works as a vet tech at the clinic where Brave was ultimately treated and she fell in love with him, as did her husband. Ronda was able to take Brave to work with her and he was given aggressive, around the clock care. But the story did not end there.
Braveheart’s condition when he was found was thoroughly documented through medical records and photographs. The photographs are very difficult to look at. Even with all that evidence, however, the city decided they needed to take Braveheart from his foster family and place him in the animal shelter as evidence. The Spataros were devastated. Braveheart had already become a part of their family. Local news station KTAL was there when Braveheart was seized and captured incredibly emotional video as the puppy is taken from the Spataros and placed in the back of an animal control truck. Through her sobs, Ronda gave Braveheart a kiss and told him, “I promise I’ll get you back…I promise.” It was a promise she was later able to keep.
It was all one step too much for the community who reacted in outrage and planned a protest at the shelter. Bo Spataro writes:
“There was an unnecessary custody battle with animal control when they were asked to start an investigation into the abuse/neglect of Braveheart by public outcry. It was quickly won, again by public outcry. [Brave’s abuser was identified and] charged with felony cruelty to an animal. We formally adopted Braveheart from Caddo Parish Animal Shelter after his abuser surrendered ownership. He has been assigned legal counsel and we have been attending his court dates. He has plead not guilty and the ADA has informed both the judge and defense there will be NO plea deals. The judge has also agreed to a sentencing hearing if he pleads guilty. This type of abuse to any animal with no meaningful penalty needs to be stopped.”
The picture taken at that joyful reunion between Braveheart and his new family still brings a tear to my eye when I look at it.
Bo tells me that the original ADA has been transferred and there will be someone else prosecuting the case; we can only hope the new prosecutor is also tough against animal abuse. We may find out this week.
For Braveheart, there is a happy ending; Bo again:
“Braveheart is now doing great and has made nearly a full recovery. He still has some emotional scars that may never go away, but overall, he knows he is safe now. He knows he is loved now. You can see his whole story at A Voice For Braveheart. He is still supported by TSR La Baby Mommas rescue in Shreveport, La and attends events to promote “Adopt, don’t shop”, spay/neuter programs, pet education and animal abuse awareness. Although Brave was originally intended to be a foster, we knew differently after he was suddenly taken from us during the custody battle. We knew immediately when we got him back, we would never let him leave our home. He is a part of our family and he has found his forever home.”
As I said, there is a happy ending.
Look at Brave now:
The next court date for Brave’s abuser comes up this week and the community will be supporting Braveheart and the Spataro family in a quiet, respectful presence in the courtroom. A while back someone asked Bo if it wouldn’t be an important statement if he took Brave into the courtroom with him and Bo had a wonderful answer that could not have been more perfect. He said he would never consider doing such a thing because he does not ever want Brave to have to look into the eyes or ever see his abuser again. All he should know from now on is love and security.
Again, as April is Prevention Against Cruelty to Animals Month, I ask you to take a moment and read Brave’s story. This isn’t just a local news story; there are stories like Brave’s all over the country. Please donate to your local animal rescue organizations and always adopt, don’t shop, when you’re ready for a pet. Work in your communities to strengthen laws against animal abuse.
To me, the story of Braveheart shows the best and the worst of human nature. I can’t imagine leaving a puppy chained to a car in a hot storage building in over 100 degree heat with no water just to die. That is an abominable act. But I also think that there are more of us on the other side – on the side of love and compassion. Thank goodness for people like the Spataros who will not only fight to save a dog from a situation like that and then go on to share their story and work as ambassadors for good. Braveheart now attends many adoption events in the community and goes to local schools to help educate kids about caring for pets.
Thanks for indulging me on this non-political post, but I really wanted to share this story with you. If we don’t give a voice to abused and mistreated animals, who will?
You can follow Braveheart’s continuing journey here.
(Note: I redacted the name of Braveheart’s alleged abuser in the post above because although he is formally charged he is not yet convicted.)
Pat Austin also blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport and has three rescue dogs.