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Dog owner reports possible poisoning in Cass County

Mark Holbrook's grief turned to rage when no law enforcement officer visited his property to investigate when he reported he believed his beloved dogs were fatally poisoned. Illustration

Mark Holbrook's grief turned to rage when no law enforcement officer visited his property to investigate when he reported he believed his beloved dogs were fatally poisoned.

It's a startling claim that can be hard to prove, but for the many dog owners in the area who love their pets like family members, the senseless crime—if it happened—is reprehensible.

"I had two boxers—that I got as puppies—and their health has always been absolutely wonderful, and all of the sudden one of them quits eating," Holbrook said.

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch sympathizes with Holbrook but lacking suspects or witnesses, Burch said Holbrook's claim is hard to investigate, which is not to say a crime did not take place.

"We don't have any other alleged dog poisonings in his neighborhood," Burch said. "He indicated that his dogs may have been poisoned—and they very well could have been—but we just have not seen any other issues in that area."

Burch said leads were lacking in Holbrook's case, but if additional cases by county residents of suspected dog poisonings were reported to the sheriff's office, that would aid investigators.

"There just isn't a whole lot to go on," Burch said of Holbrook's vague assertion about dogs in his neighborhood being poisoned. "Without saying, 'I think Joe poisoned my dogs,' we don't really have anywhere to look. ... This is the only incident we've recorded in the last year."

Holbrook said he believes his dogs were poisoned because they died a week apart and was told by his neighbors—whom he didn't know by name—more dogs in his area also recently died.

"They never even bothered coming out," Holbrook said of the sheriff's office. "I'm feeling ... heartbroken if you want to know how I'm feeling! ... It's just I'm really pissed off about the whole thing! I feel like the Cass County Sheriff's Office totally blew me off is what I feel!"

Holbrook called the sheriff's office Sept. 3, according to county records, to tell the law enforcement agency he believed his 8-year-old and 4-year-old boxers were fatally poisoned.

"The report says he wanted it on file in case anyone's dogs were poisoned—'assist and advice' at this time, so no known suspects," Burch said.

According to the American Kennel Club: "Boxers move like the athletes they're named for: smooth and graceful, but powerful," and have a life expectancy between "10 to 12 years."

"I loved them, they were like my kids," Holbrook said of his boxers Buster and Hercules. "I hung out with them every day of their lives."

The 58-year-old from Pillager said he took his dogs to three local veterinary clinics and some of them "didn't know what to think," he said of Wadena, Staples and Mille Lacs veterinarians.

"One dog died two weeks before I called the sheriff's office, and I didn't think too much about it because (vets) told me he had a blockage of some kind where he couldn't eat," Holbrook said of his dog Buster, who died a week before his other dog Hercules also died unexpectedly.

"I've been crippled and retired for years, and I had these dogs with me every single day of their lives. The only time I was ever away from them was when I went to town and back."

Lt. Scott Thompson of the Cass County Sheriff's Office said he spoke to Deputy Andy Rollins, who handled Holbrook's case by phone but did not visit Holbrook in person.

"Mr. Holbrook informed him (Rollins) that he felt that his dogs had been poisoned sometime the week prior, and he was unsure of anybody that would have done that to them, and he just wanted it on record, according to the deputy ... so the deputy left it at that," Thompson said.

"I spoke with the deputy about ... not just dealing with these sorts of situations by phone; he felt that's all the individual wanted was just to make a comment to him about what had taken place ... but (Rollins) was informed he should have at least gone out to the residence."

About 78 million dogs are owned in the United States, and almost 44 percent of all households in the U.S. have a dog, according to the American Pet Products Association.

"I'm beside myself over it. These were like my best friends," Holbrook said.

Thompson said, "I'd like to have this stuff be made aware to us in case there is a pattern (of criminal acts) or like if an officer that didn't respond correctly. These are the (types of) things that need to be corrected, so I appreciate that call."