Pit bulls missing from Rock Hill home where bulldog killed

Four pit bulls chained to trees and staked to a car – while living in what police called “deplorable” conditions – were missing from the Rock Hill backyard where authorities say a neighbor’s wandering English bulldog was killed last month.

York County animal control officers gave the owner of the pit bulls a week to fix the conditions the dogs lived in or risk fines. When officers went to the home this week, the dogs were nowhere to be found, said Steve Stuber, animal control director.

“We went out ... and the dogs were no longer there at that property,” Stuber said. “They were gone.”

Police on June 27 were sent to an Ogden Road home after receiving calls about a bulldog being attacked by a pit bull, according to a Rock Hill Police report. Officers went into the woods behind the house and found a pit bull standing over a dead bulldog. An animal control officer restrained the dog with a pole and lasso.

Officers also reported that they found four pit bulls “chained in various areas.” The report states the dogs had limited mobility because of their chains, and there was no food in their bowls. Some of the water buckets were empty. Police said some of the dogs were “extremely underweight” with ribs showing.

The pit bulls’ owner, Olin Howze II, 40, told police the pit bulls belonged to him, but he gave them food and water every other day. Police cited Howze with cruelty to animals. Animal control officers gave him a week to mitigate the conditions.

A week later, officers returned to the house and found that all the dogs were gone. Howze will have to appear in court. If he’s found guilty, Stuber said, the judge will “assign the dogs to the county.”

Hasani Menefee, 38, told police he was “pet-sitting” when he let the bulldog outside. The dog wandered onto Howze’s property, the report states, where it was attacked and killed.

“It was a very traumatic experience,” Menefee told The Herald on Wednesday.

Efforts to reach Howze this week were unsuccessful.

The decision on whether Howze’s dogs should have been taken on June 27 rested with the “judgment of the (animal control) officer” on the scene, Stuber said.

“You would have to look at the nature of the animal,” Stuber said. “Can the animal walk? Is he being starved to death? Does he appear to be healthy? All those kinds of things play into the decision that the officer is making at the time.”

Stuber said the dogs “didn’t appear to be in any danger” of dying, he said. “Unless a judge tells us to take a dog, we can’t take dogs from people.”

Stuber said the pit bull that killed the bulldog was not taken into custody because “those dogs happened to be on their own property.”

Menefee said he was taking care of his girlfriend’s 4-year-old bulldog, named Handsome, while she was out of town for a job interview. He let the dog out.

“I was mindful of the dogs back there,” he said, and noticed that Handsome had wandered too close to the wood line that abuts his and Howze’s property. He called for Handsome to return, but the dog approached the pit bulls. That’s when the attack started, he said.

The pit bull lunged at Handsome.

“There was nothing I could do ... I felt there was nothing I could possibly do to stop them,” Menefee said.

For Mia Smith, Menefee’s girlfriend and Handsome’s owner, the loss of her “canine son” has been devastating.

“Handsome ... comforted me through some of the hardest times in my life,” she said, including a divorce and the recent death of her mother.

“While I know God has a plan for us all, including his animals, I still feel some personal guilt for not being able to protect him as presumably a parent would feel when the unthinkable happens,” she said.

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