Speaking for the Voiceless
Ypsilanti Township resident Christopher Dykes was found guilty of animal cruelty on July 15th by the Honorable Judge Charles Pope, for having left a dog to starve to death after vacating a house on Calder Avenue this winter. Below is the statement by Alex, an HSHV employee. He read this at the hearing prior to sentencing.
While Mr. Dykes never took responsibility for his actions, this employee's words impacted the rest of the court immensely, causing many to cry.
As HSHV Cruelty & Rescue Manager Michele Baxter says, "While Mr. Dykes may not change his thought processes as a result of the statement, maybe many in the audience did. Hopefully, they think about what that dog went through the next time they see an animal in their neighborhood in need, and call us before it's too late."
Christopher Dykes was subsequently sentenced to 18 months of probation and no contact with animals.
[Photo by Grant on Flickr]
Victim Impact Statement
Not only was our victim voiceless, but nameless. Mr. Dykes never acknowledged this dog as his responsibility in the court’s proceedings, and in doing so stripped this dog of the opportunity to be recognized as an individual. I put much thought into how I would address our victim, as Mr. Dykes did not give him a name. Perhaps leaving him nameless will help this court see the cold way in which Mr. Dykes perceived his responsibility to care for a trapped and helpless individual. I hope I am successful in conveying the torturous conditions this dog suffered before he died due to Mr. Dykes apathy.
I have witnessed the end of animal's lives through my work at the Humane Society. Although it is rare, and only occurs when an animal is chronically ill or very dangerous to handle, those memories are indelible. The process of euthanasia is heart breaking, but in our shelter even a stray with no people to call their own breathes their last in the presence of a compassionate person, with a full belly, and a warm place to stay, with their final days at least safe, comfortable, and gentle.
Our nameless victim did not die with dignity. He was forced to wallow in puddles of his own urine and feces, roaming a house empty of food, water, and companionship. The only thing to interrupt his abject boredom were his pangs of hunger, and the hope that the noise at the front door might be his rescue.
Mr. Dykes kept the dog indoors, not returning for weeks on end, starting in the month of October. His visits were just long enough to feed the dog and leave. This act alone is immoral, and the conditions that the dog was living in inside would lead most to believe criminal as well. Mr. Dykes, and the food that the dog depended on, stopped coming in December. Our victim died after being left in solitary confinement, a terrible and cruel torture for a pack animal like a dog, for half a year. The starvation lasted for two months, in the dead of winter, without heat.
For two months Mr. Dykes’s victim scrambled through feces, scavenging what he could from trash left inside the house. Plastic jugs which may have held water were chewed through. Bags of dog food sat just out of reach on top of a drying machine, tormenting the dog's empty belly through his keen sense of smell.
The dog was found, resigned to his fate, curled up in a little malnourished ball in the corner of the couch. The only spot left in this house of horrors that was soft. The only source of comfort for a persecuted soul. He was frozen stiff, so skinny you could count his ribs from across the room. Thankfully, his pain finally ended, but only after suffering severe physical and mental anguish for months.
I know whatever account I give can never give the memory of this dog justice. If the dog could speak for himself, I think I know what he would ask from this court. He would probably ask forgiveness for Mr. Dykes. He would say that his person would never leave him to this terrible fate unless there was a very good reason. He would say that people are good, that humans are kind, and that this was all just a terrible mistake. Dogs and humans have a special bond, and it is heartbreaking to think of this dog wagging its tail in excitement and relief the handful of times Mr. Dykes, the man responsible for his suffering, did stop by to heartlessly give an insufficient amount of food and care. It is a disturbing crime to abuse the trust of the innocent and the helpless.
This dog did not have to die. It is one thing to shirk your responsibilities and abandon the dog outside, or drop it off at an animal welfare organization, or give it away. But to leave him alone, suffering, in the dark, freezing, to starve to death for no reason other than apathy at best or unadulterated evil at worst is not excusable.
I believe even the maximum penalty for this terrible act of cruelty would not do service to the memory of this dog. I would urge the court to please pursue the harshest penalty allowed by the State of Michigan.
It is my sincere hope that days of loneliness and bored confinement may help Mr. Dykes empathize with his victim, and find some type of personal atonement for what he has done. That would require taking responsibility for his actions, which this court has not seen yet. I hope the maximum allowed sentence would allow for the weight of his actions to be felt.
Thank you for this opportunity to speak on behalf of Mr. Dykes’s victim.