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"Bella's Legacy"; loses fight for life 10 months after rescue, community mourns

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“Bella” is the emaciated Pit Bull dog, rescued in February 2012, off of the chain in McIntosh, AL (Washington County) where she existed for years - without food, water or adequate shelter.

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Volunteers with Mobile, AL rescue organizations, SAFE HAEN ANIMAL CARE KENNELS, The S.H.A.C.K. and SouthBARK, came to Bella’s aid after local news was alerted to her condition. She was brought to Ark Animal Clinic where she was treated for sarcoptic mange and a host of other internal parasites. Further test indicated an advanced infestation of heartworms, a potentially fatal disease. Due to her fragile condition, treatment was a precarious and long-term proposition, but rescuers were optimistic with veterinarian’s guidance.

"Bella's" owner, James Samuel Newbill, McIntosh, AL, was arrested by Washington County Sheriff's Department on February 14, 2012. "Bella" and the case received state, national and international attention via Facebook and press reports.

" Bella’s” foster mom, Kaci Stokley, welcomed her into her heart and home, and later adopted “Bella” as her own, forever companion.

“I picked up Bella in March of 2012. We discovered she did not like other dogs, but I completely understood. I could only imagine how she was forced to defend herself on the end of that chain. Seeing her discover what a bed was, regular meals, along with hugs and kisses, was unforgettable. She was still weak, but gaining weight and muscle in her back legs. For the first time in her life, she knew what it was like to be loved and cared for.”

Stokley says that “Bella” learned that other dogs were not a threat anymore, thanks to sessions with a local dog trainer, designed with caution as she was kept under low activity to minimize the chances of the formation of clots and other health issues.

“I watched her flourish from 34 pounds into a 55, sometimes 60 pound ball of thick fur, full of excitement and joy.”

"“Bella” lost her fight for life on December 14, 2012 despite everything being done to save her. The attending veterinarian commented that he had only seen, in his 30+ years, a few dogs go downhill so quickly, so far into her treatment. It's estimated that she was much older than originally thought. She had so few teeth, from a lifetime of starvation, and chewing on a chain.

On December 17, this reporter spoke with Washington County Sheriff Richard Stringer. Sheriff Stringer advised, after looking up the records, that James Samuel Newbill, “Bella’s former owner, had served the handed-down sentence of 43 days in jail, and was fined $100.

Further investigation by Sheriff Springer revealed that Newbill had failed to pay the fine. Sheriff Springer stated that a warrant for Newbill’s arrest would be issued and “he would be back in jail.”

According to Washington County Sheriff's Department, as of today, after several attempts to serve the warrant and arrest Newbill, deputies have been unable to locate Newbill.

Stokley has created a Facebook page, Bella's Legacy, not only to mourn and memoralize "Bella's" life, but to bring awareness to the need for Alabama animal welfare laws to be strengthened, and above all, to be enforced.

Resources for animal advocates and average citizens who care about the lack of enforcement, minimal sentences handed down and the rampant cruelty inflicted upon dogs like "Bella" are highlighted on the page.

Stokley: "Bella" is the epitome of countless dogs who, at this very minute, languish in agony and despair at the end of a chain. They are forgotten, most often hidden from sight. It's unacceptable that "starvation and lack of veterinary care" is not considered a felony in Alabama.

Alabama residents, voters and animal advocates are encouraged to join Alabama Voters for Responsible Animal Legislation (AVRAL), the only Alabama grass roots Political Action Committee that focuses exclusively in strengthening and enacting companion animal welfare laws. (www.alabamavotesforanimals.org/)

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