Police search for clues among animal carcasses

October 12, 1994|By Howard Libit | Howard Libit,Sun Staff Writer

Protected by white biohazard suits, Howard County Police and Animal Control officers began searching yesterday for clues amid the shallow graves of rotting animal carcasses on county-owned land in Elkridge.

With a lone vulture circling overhead, the officers ripped open black plastic bags and tried to find any identifying tags remaining on the partially decomposed animals.

Police said some evidence -- including dog licenses -- was found that may lead them to whoever is responsible for illegally dumping the dead animals, but they refused to elaborate.

The owners of dead pets may be contacted to help the investigation, police said.

After a little more than an hour of digging through an uncovered pit of more than 50 carcasses, the police ended the search and decided that the animals will be buried properly and safely today. Nearby, partially covered graves were left mostly unexamined.

"There is nothing reasonable to be gained from digging up the covered pits," said Howard County Police spokesman Sgt. Steven Keller. "There is no way for us to dig up the animals and bring them out, so we will bury them here."

The mass grave site -- several hundred yards south of the 7700 block of Mayfield Ave., off Route 108 -- was discovered Friday evening by surveyors working nearby who followed a putrid odor to the dead carcasses.

People who live and work near the site said they had noticed the smell for several weeks but did not do anything about it.

Several hundred yards away from the pits is a county public works facility that includes a police-car repair shop.

Police have not yet determined how long the site has been used as an illegal animal dump, but Sergeant Keller said carcasses appear to have been dumped there as recently as Thursday or Friday -- the day the graves were discovered.

Digging through the open pit of carcasses, a Howard County Police detective and two county animal control officers pulled out the bodies of animals in varying states of decomposition.

Police have said they believe the animals probably were dumped by a contractor hired by an animal clinic or hospital to dispose of the animals properly through cremation.

The fact that almost all of the animals were found in black plastic bags indicates that they originated in the office of a veterinarian or animal hospital because that is how such carcasses are conventionally wrapped, according to Dr. Scott Sanderson of the East Columbia Animal Hospital.

Ray Thompson, the executive director of the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association in Bel Air, said that those who dumped the animals appeared to have made a effort to avoid being caught, because veterinarians are required to place red identification tags inside the bags of all animals scheduled to be buried or cremated.

"They obviously were removed, if the police did not find them," Dr. Thompson said. "It's a real crime what has happened."

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