DENVER (KDVR) – If it had been an hour before Scott Miller tossed something in the trash, the garbage dog case may never have come to light.
The Yorkshire Terrier owner would not ask for forgiveness from the community or be put on personal leave from the Cherry Creek School District, where she is employed as the Assistant Superintendent of Educational Operations, a position that oversees all schools in the district.
But Miller, a California construction worker, was working on a construction site in Westminster when he peeked inside the dumpster around 6:30 a.m. on July 27.
âI felt really bad for the dog. It’s not a place for a living creature, âMiller said.
He rescued the dog with a colleague about an hour before a truck arrived to pick up the trash in the dumpster. Miller believed that if the dog had ended up in the garbage truck, he likely would have been run over to death.
Miller told Problem Solvers that the dog was not crying and made no noise when he saw him sitting on a blanket over a pile of garbage.
âThis dog, there was no way there was a misunderstanding that the dog was alive or dead. He was clearly well-off. Sweet, kind dog,â Miller said.
Miller said the dog found it difficult to walk on its hind legs. He called the police, who brought the dog to animal control in Westminster. There, an animal control officer determined that the dog had likely torn ACLs in both of its hind legs.
The officer scanned the dog for a microchip and discovered that it belonged to an Aurora couple named Robert and Dr Nickie Bell.
Dog owner has animal control news
When the officer called Nickie Bell, she said the dog was “throwing up, hair falling out, he wasn’t breathing, he wasn’t walking,” according to the call recorded on a body cam and obtained by problem solvers.
The call later continued:
- Nicky Bell: “So we wrapped him in his favorite blanket and put him to rest.”
- Animal Control Officer: “Where did you put him to rest?” “
- Bell: “What do you mean?”
- Officer: “Where did you put the dog to rest?” “
- Bell: âIn a dumpster. “
- Officer: “When did you do this?”
- Bell: “Last night.”
- Officer: âSo your dog is alive and well. “
- Bell: “What?!”
Robert and Nickie Bell didn’t return several phone calls from problem solvers, but FOX31 got an interview they gave the animal control officer. This was recorded on body camera video as they traveled to Westminster Town Hall to pick up their dog.
In the video, the officer asks, “So what happened that caused you to wrap him in the blanket?” “
“The pieces of hair loss, he was leaking,” replied Robert Bell.
The officer later wrote in his report: âI have asked both parties several questions but I still don’t know what happened or why. Speaking with Robert and Nichole, they both seemed emotionless, either to have lost a beloved pet or to discover that their pet was alive and well.
On the body camera, the officer can be heard asking, “So he was still alive when you put him in the trash?”
âI didn’t take the pulse no, none of that. No, he was not moving, âreplied Robert Bell.
At the time of the incident, the Bells were living in southeast Aurora, 32 miles from their chosen dumpster in Westminster. That’s why the animal control officer asked, âYou said, ‘Let’s drive over to Westminster and put it in a trash can? “”
âI was driving, we were disappointed,â said Robert Bell.
Dog owner responds, goes on leave
The Bells ignored repeated interview requests from Problem Solvers, but in an emailed statement to FOX31 from the Cherry Creek School District, where Nickie Bell works, she wrote;
âI am extremely sorry for the events of July 26, 2021. During this time our family dog ââhad been very ill and we had sought medical treatment for him. We were also going through a personal crisis with a seriously ill family member. In short, my family was under extreme stress at that time. When I arrived home on the evening of July 26, my husband told me that our dog had passed away. I was devastated and overwhelmed with grief. My husband wrapped the dog in a blanket and threw it in a dumpster. We thought the dog was dead. We were told the next day that he was found alive. I sincerely regret this situation and the judgment I have shown during these stressful events. I apologize to the community.
Cherry Creek School District Superintendent Christopher Smith also emailed FOX31:
âI am struggling with this extremely difficult situation. By all accounts and in my personal experience, Dr. Bell has demonstrated sound judgment and character as an educator and leader in this district. Although his actions in this matter are in no way related to his work, they are of great concern. Dr Bell is currently on personal leave. We will continue to have internal conversations about this situation. “
On July 27, the day their dog was found alive, the Bells were summoned for three city offenses: abandonment of animals, neglect of animals and cruelty to animals.
In October, a City of Westminster prosecutor agreed to let the couple plead guilty to animal neglect and dismissed the other two counts.
In return, the Bells agreed to make a $ 5,000 contribution to the Rocky Mountain Yorkie Rescue Group, $ 1,085 in restitution to the Foothills Animal Shelter in Golden – which cared for the dog until it be passed – and $ 280 in court costs and fines.
“He’s just the nicest”: the dog has a new owner
The dog’s new owner told Problem Solvers that the punishment hardly matched the crime: “No, his vet bills have already racked up more than that.”
The dog’s new owner asked FOX31 not to share his name, but renamed 8-year-old Yorkie, who was previously called Brutus.
âIt’s a teddy bear. That’s why we named him Teddy. It looks good on her, âshe said.
The Problem Solvers met Teddy on November 1, five days after undergoing surgery to repair the torn ACLs in both of his hind legs.
âHe’s just the sweetest dog. What could he have done to make someone want to throw him out and ensure his death? asked its new owner.
She told Problem Solvers that the city attorney should have turned the case over to the Jefferson County District Attorney, where the Bells could have faced more serious charges including animal abuse.
âThese animals cannot defend themselves. He (Teddy) can’t tell us how horrible it was and how much he was in pain. You know, if we hurt another human like that, we’d go to jail. He just can’t speak for himself, âshe said.
How did Teddy suffer his injuries?
In their body camera interview with Animal Control,
- Robert Bell: âHe was twitching blindly, trembling. I said it was a little cruel. I said, ours (dog) will pass, and let’s put it in (a dumpster).
- Animal Control Officer: “But he wasn’t dead yet?” “
- Bell: “I thought he did.”
- Officer: “Was he walking around and everything?” “
- Bell: “No, no.”
It is not known how Teddy suffered two ACL tears to his hind legs, but his new owner has his suspicions.
âI mean, I guess someone grabbed him by the hind legs and threw him in the dumpster. It would have. How else would he have suffered both knees at the same time, the same age of injury? “
The city attorney refused a request to interview the problem solvers. A Westminster Police spokesperson told FOX31 that the city attorney did not forward the case to the district attorney because the city attorney believed criminal intent could not be proven, it was therefore treated as a municipal offense.
Places that accept unwanted dogs
Many animal shelters, including the Foothills Animal Shelter in Golden, have pet deposit kennels if a family needs to abandon a pet, no questions asked.
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