Man charged in poisoning dog owned by neighbor

February 09, 2007|By Sandy Alexander | Sandy Alexander,sun reporter

When Kathy McSweeney's 2 1/2 -year-old mixed-breed dog Amy became anxious, disoriented and unable to walk last month, she rushed her to the vet while the family scoured the house and garage, searching for something that could have sickened the animal.

McSweeney's family found the cause hidden in the bushes between their North Laurel home and their neighbor's property - two bowls filled with chicken bones, bacon grease and antifreeze.

The dog died, and their neighbor, Jack Carl Schroeder, 58, of the 10600 block of Rachel Yates Court, was charged Wednesday with aggravated cruelty to animals, poisoning a dog and destruction of property, Howard County police said yesterday. The charges carry a maximum sentence of six years in prison and more than $7,500 in fines.

Schroeder was released on his own recognizance. Efforts to reach Schroeder yesterday were unsuccessful.

He told police that he had put the poison out for the dog, leading to her death in early January, according to court documents.

McSweeney said Schroeder has had numerous disagreements with neighbors - particularly about noise - and that he had complained about the dogs her family has had over the years.

"You just can't believe somebody would actually do this," said McSweeney, who has lived on the southern Howard County cul-de-sac for 18 years, all of them next door to Schroeder.

McSweeney's 16-year-old daughter, Molly Cassella, first noticed that Amy was in distress. Molly had let the dog out into the yard for about an hour after she got home from school, and when Molly called her in, the dog was agitated and had trouble walking.

McSweeney said she took the dog to Rocky Gorge Animal Hospital in Laurel, where Amy had a high fever, didn't seem to recognize her owners and could not walk at all. McSweeney next took the dog to a veterinary hospital in Annapolis that provides overnight care. The dog died there later that night.

In the meantime, McSweeney said, she contacted a neighbor out of concern for her two dogs. That neighbor said she saw Schroeder acting suspiciously near the property line the previous night.

The information led to the discovery of the bowls, which McSweeney and her husband, Stefan Cassella, an attorney with the U.S. Justice Department, took to the police.

"We were all devastated," said McSweeney, an assistant director for disability support services at Howard Community College.

The couple's two sons are grown, but their 16- and 13-year-old daughters were particularly upset, McSweeney said. The dog - a dachshund, basset hound and beagle mix - "was really our baby," she said.

They were further alarmed, McSweeney said, because their previous dog, a beagle and German shepherd mix, died in April 2004 after displaying similar symptoms.

They did not report that dog's death to the police at the time, McSweeney said, because they did not believe someone would hurt their dog on purpose.

She said her yard has an underground electric fence, and that the family made an effort to bring each of their dogs inside when they started to bark. They also gave their first dog, a Labrador, to a family living in the country after it was too rambunctious for their suburban setting.

Amy "was an incredibly timid dog," McSweeney said. "She barked, but very rarely, and she rarely went out of the yard."

After a nasty verbal exchange with Schroeder, "we had really no contact with him for the last few years," McSweeney said. "That is how everybody [in the neighborhood] has dealt with [him]."

But, she said, she wants to make sure people are aware of what happened so it will not happen again.

"You can't put up with this," she said.

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