Two men arrested after two greyhounds die

They were hauling 21 dogs in apparent effort to save them

June 09, 1999|By Nancy A. Youssef | Nancy A. Youssef,SUN STAFF

Two Florida men's apparent efforts to save the lives of 21 retired racing greyhounds went awry after two animals died en route to Philadelphia, leading to the arrest of the men along Interstate 95 in Howard County.

Robert C. Reeves, 30, and Franz J. Scheider, 45, of Bonita Springs, Fla., were traveling north on I-95 -- with the dogs in a trailer hitched to their truck -- when they stopped at a Laurel area rest stop about 7: 30 p.m. Monday. Other motorists noticed that the dogs looked stressed from the heat and called the state police.

The temperature Monday hit a record 97 degrees at Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

Reeves and Scheider "stopped to get the dogs water, but one of the dogs could barely stand," said state police Lt. Thomas Gardner. "One of the motorists [who had called police] stood in front of the truck so they [Reeves and Scheider] couldn't drive away."

When state police arrived, they found several of the dogs suffering from heat exhaustion, and two of the dogs had died.

The makeshift aluminum trailer was 18 feet long, 7 feet wide and 3 feet high, just high enough for the dogs to stand, said Gardner. It had small cages holding up to three dogs each.

"That aluminum drew a lot of heat into the trailer," Gardner said. "If we hadn't found them, I don't think they would have made it much longer."

The dogs were retired racers at the Naples/Fort Myers Greyhound Track in Bonita Springs, where they had been living in a kennel. A track employee, Helen Geller, told a local television news station about two weeks ago that the dogs -- who everyone agreed could no longer win races -- were "at risk." She did not have any comment yesterday.

David G. Wolf, director of the National Greyhound Adoption Program in Philadelphia, learned about the dogs from the news station and told Geller he could put them up for adoption.

"These dogs were considered losers since they no longer race," Wolf said.

The program is the largest greyhound adoption agency in the country, and the closest one to the track that could accommodate 20 dogs, Wolf said.

A Bonita Springs resident paid $900 for the trailer, and Scheider and Reeves, who is Geller's fiance, left Florida about 9 p.m. Sunday for Philadelphia, Wolf said.

"They were volunteering their time," Wolf said. "They had the best of intentions."

But the men got lost near Washington and were stuck in rush-hour traffic before reaching the rest stop.

"If they hadn't gotten lost, they would have been in Philadelphia by 4 p.m.," Wolf said. "There was no air getting into the trailers."

The men were charged with animal cruelty and are being held in the Howard County Detention Center on a $1,000 bond each. If convicted of the charge, the men could receive a $1,000 fine, 90 days in prison, or both.

Wolf said he has hired an attorney for the men who will help them post bail. He said he was making arrangements to pick up the surviving dogs from the Howard County Animal Shelter in Columbia late last night or early this morning.

Once they arrive in Philadelphia, the dogs will be cleaned, neutered and receive all necessary shots. They will then be put up for adoption; the new owners will be charged about $260 a dog, Wolf said.

The nonprofit program, founded in 1990, places about 700 dogs for adoption every year, usually greyhounds that can no longer race.

About 25,000 greyhounds are killed every year, said Stella Yeary, a member of the Greyhound Rescue Society.

"People have become aware these guys make great pets," she said. "But these [adoption] agencies can only take so many."

Pub Date: 6/09/99

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