VERNON – What began as a trial adoption for a rescue bully-breed named Nala, turned into a social media firestorm after Nala went missing.
Furever Bully Love Rescue (FBLR) Vice President Tanisha Branchick said that Nala was transported to the Vernon home of Chris and Kathleen Malone on August 5 to begin a trial adoption period after background, veterinary and home checks were completed.
The trial basis would be for as long as it took for the Malones to determine if theirs was the right home for Nala. Branchick says she and FBLR President Jennifer Adorno both attempted to contact the Malones to check on Nala and how things were going.
It was here Branchick says things went awry.
I understood not hearing from them the first day because it was late when they made it home, said Branchick. But by day seven, we knew we were getting the runaround.
In an August 25 social media post, the Orlando-based dog rescue stated Chris Malone sent them a text message and informed them Nala had run away on the second day they had her, something Branchick says she would not do. Within days, a $5,000 reward for any information on Nalas whereabouts was offered.
FBLR contacted the Washington County Sheriffs Office and Animal Control, an investigation began.
A search around the Malones property led to the discovery of some badly decomposed animal remains which Branchick says belong to Nala.
Washington County Sheriff Kevin Crews says investigators are unable to confirm that claim, however, stating the remains were too spread out and decomposed to make a positive identification as to what type of animal the remains belonged to.
We cannot say for sure the remains were that of Nala, said Sheriff Crews. There were only pieces, and the decomposition was too far along to make a positive identification.
Crews says WCSO considers the case to be closed unless some solid evidence can be brought forth in the case.
After speaking with the Malones, WCSO has closed the case on the missing dog, said Crews. The Malones stated the dog ran away on the second day they were in possession and has not been seen since. This case will remain closed until irrefutable evidence can be brought forth.
The Malones could not be reached for comment at press time, but a source close to the investigation says the couple maintains innocence of wrong doing in the case and has received harassing messages regarding Nalas fate.
Meanwhile, Branchick says the $5,000 reward is still available to anyone that provides information leading to an arrest in the case and that FBLR will continue with efforts to bring what they have dubbed Justice For Nala.
Branchick says she and Adorno are working toward something positive coming out of the situation.
We want Nalas life to mean something, said Branchick.
We want other rescues who may face a similar situation to have resources to turn to so we are putting together Nalas Legacy.
Nalas Legacy is a panel made up of ASPCA members, private investigators, members of FDLE and veterinarians that hope to create a uniform national adoption application for all adoption and foster organizations to use that will cover all legalities.
Adorno and Branchick are also working on a website, www.nalaregistry.com.
The goal of the website is a national database of perpetrators of animal cruelty and a do not adopt to list. Branchick says this is a step in preserving Nalas memory.
She was such a sweet girl, said Branchick. She was always smiling and had her tongue out. I have to believe that out of this tragedy, there is a greater purpose; Nala will help save other dogs.