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San Angelo woman indicted after dog dies from antifreeze poisoning, family speaks out

Alana Edgin
San Angelo Standard-Times

SAN ANGELO — A San Angelo woman has been indicted months after a chihuahua died from antifreeze-soaked hot dogs, according to a court documents.

Just before 1 a.m. Aug. 10, 2020, police responded to a report of animal cruelty in the 2200 block of Darthmouth Street. Police learned a dog had been poisoned at a nearby residence. 

The indictment stated a woman "intentionally ... administer(ed) poison, namely antifreeze" to Tiny, a 7-year-old chihuahua. Tiny died as a result of antifreeze-soaked hot dog pieces, according to the indictment.

Sarah Alley Howell, 81, was arrested on the indicted charge of cruelty to non-livestock animal kill/poison/serious bodily injury on Tuesday, Nov. 10, 2020. She was released from Tom Green County Detention Center on a $7,500 bond hours later.

The indicted charge is a third degree felony, punishable by up to 10 years in jail and a fine not to exceed $10,000.

Sarah Alley Howell

Family describes hours leading up to Tiny's death

Christel Deller, Howell's neighbor and owner of Tiny, a 7-year-old chihuahua, recalled the woman telling Deller's fiancé that she would be setting out fertilizer to deter animals from her yard a few days earlier. In an August interview, Deller spoke of her family's dog and the hours leading up to Tiny's death.

Deller said Tiny never left their yard when let outside, but took precautions by staying outside with Tiny.

Tiny, a 7-year-old chihuahua, died Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, after a veterinarian discovered a lethal amount of antifreeze in her blood.

More:Here's what you should do if you witness animal abuse or neglect

One morning Tiny slipped out of the house and did her usual morning routine in the front yard. Moments later, her owners saw her across the street at the neighbor's mailbox. Tiny started throwing up within the hour. 

"She eats so quickly...(my fiancé) and I thought she just ate too fast," said Christel Deller. They knew something was wrong when Tiny continued vomiting and acting lethargic.

Deller's fiancé later noticed a tray by the woman's mailbox and took a picture of what looked like antifreeze and hot dogs and Tiny was rushed to the vet.

"By then, Tiny's tail was tucked between her legs, which were giving out," Deller said. "The vet called and said 'I'm so sorry, but Tiny has a lethal dose of antifreeze in her blood. There's nothing we can do.'"

The family said their goodbyes to the chihuahua they'd had for 7 years.

Christel Deller's daughter says goodbye to Tiny, a 7-year-old chihuahua, Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020. Tiny was euthanized after a veterinarian discovered a lethal dose of antifreeze in her blood.

Concho Valley PAWS, an animal rescue, commented that antifreeze poisoning is common. People can protect their pets by checking areas for possible poison, not using retractable leashes, and keeping pets in an enclosed area.

"This situation is a little more frightening for us as rescuers," said Jeanie Wilson, PAWS director. "This was set out where anyone could get it."

If someone believes their pet has eaten something with antifreeze, immediately take them to the vet and call police. Take a sample of the suspected poison so it can be tested, Wilson recommended. 

A memorial dedicated to Tiny, a 7-year-old chihuahua, stands in the 2200 block of Darthmouth Drive in San Angelo. Tiny died Sunday, Aug. 9, 2020, after veterinarians discovered a lethal dose of antifreeze in her blood.

A San Angelo police report stated officers were called to the ASU-College Hills neighborhood to investigate suspected animal cruelty-torture. At least four people are listed as victims. 

Police told Deller a woman in a small black car picked up two trays Monday, one at the mailbox and one on the side of the house, and drove away. A neighbor swabbed one of the trays previously and gave the swab to police.

More:The owners of Bruiser, the abused dog who raised $10,000, finish trial for animal cruelty

The police have also addressed some issues with social media posts, comments, and behavior from some members of the public, according to a department Facebook post.

"Some posts and comments on Facebook have been incendiary, inflammatory, and outright violent in nature," the post stated. "The comments and posts mentioned can cause those potential witnesses to avoid speaking with law enforcement."

Woman indicted serves on several boards

Howell is listed as a member on boards for the Fort Concho Museum and Friends of San Angelo State Park as of 2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 11. Officials with these boards discussed the public's concerns in August, after the investigation began.

"The actions taken by this individual do not reflect the values of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department," said Jim Cisneros, park superintendent for San Angelo State Park. "We will be visiting with the Friends of San Angelo State Park so they understand our concerns, but direct action would be in their purview."

Ruth Jordan, president of Friends of San Angelo State Park, stated the woman is a volunteer member and the board hasn't been meeting because of COVID-19. 

"Whatever happened has nothing to do with us or the state park," Jordan said. "If the board feels she needs to be removed, it will happen. We certainly do not condone animal cruelty."

Bob Bluthardt, manager for the fort, also addressed the public's concerns, mentioning  he had received numerous calls and emails. Though the woman is on the fort's board, only the San Angelo City Council can remove her from the board.

"It's an active police investigation and we are awaiting the results," said Brian Groves, public information officer for the city.

Alana Edgin is a journalist covering Crime and Courts in West Texas. Send her a news tip at aedgin@gannett.com