O’FALLON, Mo. — Investigators are trying to find out what led to the deaths of a cat and a dog in O’Fallon, Missouri.
The animal owners went on vacation and left their pets with a trusted caretaker, only to discover they were found dead days later.
Tommie Love said they are big advocates for animals and even spend their time and money helping organize adoption events.
Her rescue dog, Gloria, is a doodle and she was set for her 5th birthday.
“Gloria is adorable and loves people,” Love said.
Her rescue cat, Poodles, joined her family just over six weeks ago, after Love found her stranded.
Love kept them safe and wanted to make sure they were safe when they took a trip to Mexico.
A trusted relative, who was staying with them, said he would take care of the pets.
“Usually we have another nanny. We had this family member who we loved and trusted and she had no clue and no concern,” Love said. “We came here on vacation. It worked out at the perfect time because I had two traumatic deaths in my family and I had five days to relax and rest.”
But there was no relaxation.
Love says her nightmare started when they couldn’t see their pets on their cameras.
She saw the sitter leave for work and put one of her dogs in the crate, but Gloria was nowhere to be seen.
“We demanded to see Gloria on Facetime and she refused,” Love explained.
That’s when Love’s son went to the 800 block of Bluff Brook Drive to see what was going on.
“He found blood in the basement where the cat was supposed to be and the cat was gone. Eventually, she admitted that the cat died and that Gloria had run away the day before,” she added.
In addition to calling the police, Love took their fight to Facebook and shared a poster of a missing dog.
I was still in Mexico trying to find answers.
“I’m in a foreign country, I don’t have good reception, I’m doing my best to spread the word!” she said.
The post caught the attention of Mandy Zatorski, who is with an animal rescue advocacy group called Missouri K9 Friends.
The group also pursues animal cruelty cases.
“My jaw dropped when I first read it. You think about rescuing animals and finding their happy ending and for this to happen makes it so much worse,” Zatorski shared.
With hundreds of helpers, Love would soon learn the truth from her son.
“My son, when he was leaving the house yesterday, he was walking to his car and he smelt this disgusting smell. He stuck it in the car, the babysitter’s car,” Love said as her voice began to shake.
She said she saw a necklace in the car and confirmed it was Gloria’s.
They called the police for help, but they said they couldn’t get in.
With his mom’s permission, his son grabbed a hammer and got in the car.
“He opened the car door and the first thing I saw was the body of the cat and then he took out some other things and he quickly moved the camera away and said, ‘I can’t let you see this.’ He found Gloria under a pile of clothes in a laundry basket. The police believe they have been there dead since Tuesday and locked in a hot car for five days,” she said.
A suspect was identified and arrested.
Investigators hope to file charges for animal cruelty and possession of a controlled substance.
The O’Fallon Police Department says the two deceased animals were sent to the University of Missouri for necropsy examinations.
The police explain that they are waiting for those results before determining the charges filed.
Zatorski is pleased with the police response, saying animal cruelty cases can be difficult to prove in the state of Missouri.
“The laws in Missouri are weak and the laws against cruelty to animals are disastrous. In Missouri, the abuse of animals is practically a misdemeanor unless they can prove torture and mutilation,” he said.
Love carries the pain and the memories, knowing that he would do anything for his pets.
“They are my babies. I never in a million years would have left them at a time when I felt they weren’t safe,” Love said.
He also wants to tell others to think twice.
“Be safe. Make sure you have a home security camera that you can see. We weren’t sure yet, even if you do everything right something horrible can happen, but take every precaution you can,” Love said.