Finding Justice for Ronzo

Frightened, sick and in excruciating pain, the young Cocker Spaniel knew he was in trouble. Like most stray or abandoned animals in peril, he had sought out a quiet place to hide, in this case a densely wooded area behind a row of houses, where he could stay concealed and as motionless as possible. But besides avoiding discovery, the dog had other reasons for keeping still – his fur was so matted that even the slightest movement shot waves of agony through his body as thick, tight tangles pulled and tore at his raw and wounded flesh. But while instinct told him to fight to survive, the young spaniel could feel himself growing weaker from the infection raging through his body. All he wanted rest and relief from his misery.

Humans had never been kind to him, so when the little dog heard the sounds of footfalls approaching he became terrified, as the presence of people usually meant more pain. Peering between the long tendrils of fur that hung down over his tired eyes, he could see a figure coming toward him, someone holding a pole with a noose at the end. Too weak to run or fight, the dog warned the human to stay away with a few feeble barks and attempts to bite, but all to no avail. Within seconds that noose was tight around his neck – he was captured.

This is how Ronzo looked when he arrived at the Clayton County Animal Shelter.

This is how Ronzo looked when he arrived at the Clayton County Animal Shelter.

Such was the predicament of this young spaniel when he was found at the intersection of Bethsaida Rd. and West Fayetteville Rd. in Riverdale, Georgia on May 28, 2015. Although it is unclear if the dog lived at the residence near the woods where he was found, had been dumped or wandered there on his own, it was evident to the Clayton County Animal Control officer that this dog needed help, and fast.

“His condition was so horrendous that Clayton County Animal Shelter immediately called our rescue to ask if we could take him,” Jennifer Naujokas, a full-time volunteer with Angels Among Us Pet Rescue, explained. “It was evident that the dog had been severely neglected for his entire life – he was just covered in mats and was biting. His mats were so thick and bound to his skin that it appeared he had never been brushed. Cocker Spaniels require quite a bit of grooming and maintenance because of their beautiful, fast-growing coats – obviously whoever owned him didn’t pay any attention to this.”

In less than an hour an AAU rescue volunteer had the newly named Ronzo en route to Peachtree Corners Animal Clinic, where he would receive immediate treatment and a much-needed shave. But once vet staff began removing the spaniel’s densely matted fur it became clear that the dog’s condition was much worse than originally anticipated.

A very sick and matted Ronzo on his way to Peachtree Corners Animal Clinic.

A very sick and matted Ronzo on his way to Peachtree Corners Animal Clinic.

“We started that process and then immediately realized what was going on,” said Peachtree Corners Relief Veterinarian Dr. Michelle Gardin in a recent TV news report on Fox 5 Atlanta. “There were literally thousands of maggots on this dog. It was very upsetting and very sad to see how bad he was.”

In dire need of emergency surgery and 24-hour critical care, Ronzo was rushed to BluePearl-Georgia Veterinary Specialists, where he underwent two surgeries over two days in an attempt to clean and repair the multitude of raw, open wounds covering half of his body and remove the hoards of maggots eating him alive.

“Once GVS got him somewhat stabilized they started the surgeries,” Jennifer continued. “He had maggots on his skin, inside skin, inside his organs, just hundreds and hundreds of maggots, and every time they went in they found more. Normally they wouldn’t have done two major surgeries like that back to back but if they hadn’t done the second surgery he would have died for sure, so we had to take that chance.”

The sad and disturbing reality of Ronzo's condition after his coat was removed.

The sad and disturbing reality of Ronzo’s condition after his coat was removed.

Ronzo’s life hung in the balance, his chances of survival at 50/50. Strong pain and sedation meds, antibiotics and IV fluids coursed through his emaciated, wound-riddled body, fighting to stop the sepsis infection while helping to keep the poor dog more comfortable than he’d probably been in months. Despite his tragic state, he was a beautiful blue merle-colored spaniel, estimated to be only 10 months old – he was just a puppy! While his road to recovery would undoubtedly be a long one, if Ronzo survived he had such a long life ahead of him, as Cocker Spaniels can live 16 years and longer.

After surviving the first night it seemed that Ronzo wanted to live. Besides lifting his head, he allowed a couple of AAU volunteers and vet staff to pet him. He had so many people rooting for him, including the rescue’s thousands of Facebook fans. Yet the happy outcome Ronzo so greatly deserved – that of a healthy, happy, beloved companion – was not to be. On May 30, just two days after his rescue, Ronzo’s broken little body shut down. He had crossed the Rainbow Bridge, finally free from his suffering.

As the story of Ronzo’s passing took wing across the Internet, cries for justice began to grow. Without missing a beat, AAU immediately turned its attention to finding the sub-human responsible for Ronzo’s abuse, neglect and untimely death. Soon a private citizen came forward, donating $1,000 to a reward fund for information leading to the arrest of Ronzo’s former owner, and not long after that, the Humane Society of the United States offered an additional $5,000.

Ronzo's reward poster

“We see many cases of animal abuse and neglect (but) Ronzo touched many of us because he must have suffered for such a long time,” said Debra Berger, state director of the Georgia HSUS. “While HSUS recognizes that money cannot undo the suffering that Ronzo experienced, we offer this financial contribution to the reward fund in the hope that the perpetrator will be found. The seriousness with which the Clayton County Police Department is pursuing this case leads us to trust that justice will be served, and that the community will understand that animal abuse against sentient victims is a serious crime.”

Since then, AAU has been busy posting signs and flyers from Sandy Springs to Riverdale, while the Georgia HSUS is in process of issuing a nationwide press release in the hopes that someone will be willing to come forward and lead authorities to Ronzo’s former owner. Thus far, no legitimate leads have surfaced.

Although she is devastated that poor Ronzo couldn’t be saved, Jennifer says she remains more committed than ever to rescuing dogs like him, especially those from Clayton County Animal Shelter, a troubled facility notorious for its overcrowding problems, questionable euthanasia practices and sick and injured animals. In fact, the shelter recently experienced its fair share of bad publicity when an alleged outbreak of canine flu prompted the facility to euthanize 64 dogs in one day, causing a public outcry among Atlanta’s passionate animal rescue community

How Ronzo should have looked. Photo credit: maryscockerhaven.com

How Ronzo should have looked. Photo credit: maryscockerhaven.com

“If anything, Ronzo has only fueled my desire to save the dogs of Clayton County,” Jennifer said. “I want to continue rescuing and placing these amazingly wonderful dogs who, despite their neglect and abuse, are so awesome! Not only does this shelter have a huge pit bull population but they also have highly adoptable dogs with dire medical needs that a lot of rescues can’t take on. I estimate we’ve pulled over 1,000 dogs from that shelter in the last three years alone, many with serious medical cases, from parvo and pneumonia, to needing limbs amputated. I don’t know why Clayton ends up with these huge medical cases but they do, so they’re always on my radar.”

Although all 50 U.S. states have felony animal cruelty laws, legislation doesn’t appear to be doing enough to deter our nation’s irresponsible pet owners and sociopaths from neglecting and abusing animals. If anything, the justice system remains slanted in favor of those abusive individuals instead of the innocent, defenseless and voiceless victims that so greatly depend on humans for their protection and care. But until animals are considered sentient beings rather than property, living creatures that deserve rights and protections from bodily harm just like humans, the abuse and cruelty will continue.

“I think it’s going to take more eyewitnesses caring enough to step forward (and report animal abuse),” Jennifer asserted. “I think a lot of people who know about, see or hear such abuse are scared to come forward. So it’s going to take the police to protect those citizens, let them know that they can remain anonymous, and give them some level of comfort that it’s okay to talk about it.”

Ronzo shortly before his passing.

Ronzo shortly before his passing.

While Ronzo’s short, unfortunate life may have come to an end, his story will live on, reminding all of us to be a voice for the defenseless and the voiceless, especially those victimized by abuse. Animal cruelty is a felony, so if you witness the abuse, neglect or mistreatment of an animal, don’t hesitate to call the police – they are there to protect you and that animal! And please, do not own a dog if you are not willing or able to care for it properly for its entire life – they are a big responsibility and their care can be costly, especially those breeds that require frequent professional grooming. As intelligent, sentient beings who experience emotions, dogs are pack animals that need to be with their humans. They suffer greatly when isolated, neglected, abused or abandoned.

“In all of my years in rescue, Ronzo’s story is one of the most horrific cases – I’ve never seen something so gruesome,” Jennifer said. “While the ultimate goal is finding the person who did this to Ronzo and putting them in jail, I’m hoping his tale will inspire people to learn about caring for their dogs, watch out for the dogs in their neighborhoods, and report something if it doesn’t seem right. We have to speak up for those that can’t speak for themselves.”

If you or anyone you know has any information regarding Ronzo and his former owner, please contact Jennifer Naujokas at 404-421-2971, jnaujokas@angelsrescue.org or email Angels Among Us Pet Rescue at info@angelsrescue.org. All informants will remain anonymous, however the $6,000 reward will only be granted if the perpetrator is arrested. If you would like to help AAU rescue more dogs in-need like Ronzo, please consider donating to this amazing organization.

“I hold that, the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from the cruelty of man.” – Mahatma Gandhi

27 thoughts on “Finding Justice for Ronzo

  1. This brings tears to my eyes that someone would let tthis happen to a defenseless animal and the owner needs to face some serious charges and jail time and maybe die the same way Romeo did bless you guys for everything that you did to save his life

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  2. So hope and pray they find out who done this to Ronzo and causing him ending up in such horrific conditions. My heart went out to him so much. I hope when and if they do that the person will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. We have to have a voice for these furbabies and it has got to stop!!

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  3. Thank you for doing so much for Ronzo. At least for a few hours he was cared for and loved, probably more than he had ever been in his entire life. He’s well now, and living over the Rainbow Bridge.

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  4. it’s a shame to put a wonderful dog like Ronzo throw such a terrible , painful life when all he wanted was love . I hope someone will turn the abuser in so Ronzo will get his justice . but he would have just wanted a better life . so sorry little one but you are in a better place now . love

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  5. Thank you for caring and giving poor Ronco love and care before he crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. Rest in peace little baby. You are safe now.

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  6. I have tears in my eyes not only for Ronzo’s plight but the abuse and cruelty with which people seem to enjoy treating an animal! When did humans become such monsters and so evil! I hope you find out who did thid to that precious little soul and put the jerk away forever and may he be punished for the rest of his days for what he/she did!

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  7. People really have become beyond sickening! It is high time that the Federal and State Governments write laws to punish those that cause these abuses. They need to be severely punished and not slapped on the wrist! There needs to be a law to allow people to take animals from someones home or yard if an animal, any animal is being abused, regardless of the abuse. Until this happens, these cases just continue to grow. The society we live in today does not want to hold people responsible for their actions, it’s time that we do!!!

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  8. I hope they fine who ever did this to this poor fur baby.Until the laws are more then a slap on the had there will be slimy slugs that do things like this to defenseless and helpless animals.I pray there will be justice for this poor baby.

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  9. I donated to Ronzo, and was crushed when he didn’t make it. I will never forget him, and I can smile knowing that he is now free from all pain…..physical and emotional. God loves him and he will always be loved now.

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  10. Thank you for writing this story about Ronzo and bringing attention to animal cruelty. Hopefully someone will come forward and identify his abusers before they move on to torment and kill another helpless victim.

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  11. i hope they find the ppl that let this happend n put them in jail a long time pets dont need ppl who do them like this smh i sorry he had to die its not fair i wish i could help sum how but i live on ssi n its not much n i have 9 dogs but i by there food before i by mine so i no there took care of

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  12. I feel your pain, and the tears are non-ending for this kind of abuse or any abuse, I am glad he will be running free with new friends and lots of love after crossing the rainbow bridge. ‘TO MY MIND, THE LIFE OF A LAMB IS NO LESS PRECIOUS THAN THAT OF A HUMAN BEING…I HOLD THAT, THE MORE HELPLESS A CREATURE, THE MORE ENTITLED IT IS TO PROTECTION BY MAN FROM THE CRUELTY OF MAN’
    MAHATMA GANDHI

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  13. sending you lots of prayers and very proud of you for the work you did and continue to do with animals. I hope that one day the people that did this will pay. I”m sure KARMA WILL DEAL WITH THEM.

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  14. It breaks my heart to see such abuse and neglect. We need laws in place that truly punish these sick humans that engage in this. Animals are at our mercy and we need to stop abusing that. We are their voice!! Together, we can stop this. I wish I had the means to adopt ever abused or neglected animal and prosecute every human that dares to mistreat one!

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    • I am trying to type through my tears ,my heart is so heavy for what has happened to Ronzo. I do not know why this has to happen to our animals here on earth , people are losing it to be so cruel, Ronzo run feel with no more horror in your life sweet baby , now your safe .

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  15. This is the saddest thing I have ever heard of in my life. I cannot stop crying over this poor innocent puppy that did absolutely nothing to anyone and yet some monster did this to him. If nothing else, Ronzo is no longer suffering. He was forced to cross over that Rainbow Bridge so much sooner than he had to. From the moment I first read about Ronzo I prayed so hard that he would survive but unfortunately that was not to be. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who tried to save Ronzo. You may not have been able to save him but I’m sure in the end you touched his life and heart more than you could ever imagine. RIP Ronzo. You were loved by so very, very many of us. Now we are all praying that what goes around comes around very soon and that they find the monster that did this horrible thing to this poor baby!!!

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