The following morning, authorities and paramedics found the feral dogs still standing guard over their ‘kill’.
Even though there were no witnesses to the murders, local authorities did pick up 16 feral dogs whom they believe to have been involved in the mauling of Mr and Mrs Schweder.
A spokesman for the Humane Society of the United States, Adam Goldfarb, stated that such a dog killing was so rare, in fact, that “you are more likely to killed by a bolt of lightning than by a dog.”
Ironically, Mrs Schweder was always concerned about the welfare of the small pack of mixed breed dogs that were often seen wandering around the neighborhood.
It is believed that a few of the medium-sized dogs were abandoned at the residence of Howard Thaxton, who was forced to move due to health issues. However, neighbors have told the police that Thaxton was driven to his old house in order to leave food out for all the dogs on a regular basis. The dogs have since multiplied amongst themselves and become more feral with time.
According to Capt. Shalon Huff of the Oglethorpe County Sheriff’s Department, Thaxton has insisted that the dogs had never shown any sign of aggression to him or to anyone else and he therefore believed that the dogs did not kill the elderly couple.
However, Goldfarb offers a different perspective:
“Sometimes the pack mentality can play a role. One dog gets aroused and that revs up his buddies.”
Animal Control officers claimed that the pack of feral dogs had shown aggression towards them whilst they were attempting to round them all up. The officers eventually resorted to using tranquilizer guns and humane traps to catch the dogs, explained Capt. Huff, who continued to add that a smaller group of the dogs actually cornered two officers against a vehicle.
Thankfully, none of the dogs showed any sign of having Rabies.
Police officials have concluded that Mrs Schweder had perhaps gone out for her evening walk on Friday, staying close to her home, in an attempt to look for one of her own dogs who had gone missing a month ago.
It was during this walk that Mrs Schweder was attacked, with the preliminary autopsy report stating that she had died as a result of animal bites inflicted by the dogs.
It is then believed that Mr Schweder went in search of his wife in his car after she failed to return home promptly. Mr Schweder found his wife’s body and had attempted to use his cell phone to call for help before he too was attacked by the dogs. James Mathews, the Madison County Coroner, also stated that Mr Schweder had died from injuries that he had sustained through multiple animal bite wounds.
On Saturday morning, the couple was discovered by a group of Jehovah’s Witnesses who were walking in the same area and immediately called police.
The police arrived to discover several shoe prints, signs of a scuffle and a multitude of paw prints in the mud.
One of the couple’s sons, Mark Schweder, has stated that both of his parents were avid animal lovers and therefore he did not want any charges to be brought against the man who had continually fed the dogs.
“It’s just a horrible accident,” Mark Schweder said.
All 16 dogs were taken to the Madison-Oglethorpe animal shelter, where court-ordered euthanizations were carried out.
Two other dogs still remain at large however and Animal Control Officers are hoping to catch them and bring them in to be euthanized as well.
In the meantime, the Madison-Oglethorpe animal shelter has now been given the responsibility to find homes for the 20 cats and seven dogs that belonged to the Schweders.
According to Goldfarb, there have been 20 deadly dog attacks in the USA this year. In 2008 there were 22 attacks and in 2007 there were 33 attacks by dogs that were all fatal. This is in comparison with the estimated 75 million dogs that are owned across the USA.
In contrast, the National Weather Service has stated that 27 lightning deaths have occurred so far in 2009, 28 in 2008 and 45 in 2007.
Photo Credit: gopal1035