Guilty: Rich Square Couple Convicted in Chained Dog’s Heatstroke Death

PETA Discovered Dead Dog Still Tethered and Left to Rot in Yard During Heat Wave

For Immediate Release:
August 22, 2019

David Perle 202-483-7382

Rich Square, N.C.

Today, Kenneth and Chekila Stephenson were found guilty on cruelty-to-animals charges stemming from the death of their 2-year-old black lab, Molly, last August. PETA fieldworkers discovered her dead body tied up and lying in a shallow dirt hole that she’d dug in a desperate and failed attempt to escape the heat. It wasn’t the first time they’d tried to help the suffering dog and prevent her from dying. “Some people just don’t need animals,” Judge Vershenia B. Moody said from the bench as she handed down a sentence barring the Stephensons from owning, possessing, residing with, or caring for animals. Each must pay $1,100 in court fines and costs and is under supervised probation for 12 months. Both were sentenced to 45 days in jail, suspended.

In the year before Molly’s death, PETA staffers provided her and the other dogs in the Stephensons’ custody with doghouses and straw bedding to give them some protection against the winter cold and gave Molly anti-flystrike ointment to keep her ears from being eaten away in summer, deworming medication, and more. During virtually every visit, the animals were found without such basic necessities as water and food, and they were often so entangled in tethers that they could barely move more than a few inches. On one visit, a staffer noticed that Molly was suffering from a dangerous uterine prolapse, which PETA’s veterinary clinic treated free of charge—yet the Stephensons refused to take her indoors to heal after this emergency surgery.

“While the Stephensons’ conviction is only right, it can’t undo the immense suffering that Molly and the other dogs endured,” says PETA Senior Vice President Daphna Nachminovitch. “This case is exactly why PETA is pushing for an area ban on 24/7 tethering of dogs, which leads to neglect, isolation, and—in cases like poor Molly’s—prolonged suffering and a painful death.”

Dogs chained outdoors around the clock spend their entire lives in the same few square feet of space, forced to eat and sleep near or even in their own waste. Chaining dogs deprives them of the social interaction that they crave as pack animals, which can make them aggressive and nearly three times as likely to bite. Furthermore, dogs left outside in the summertime are often eaten alive by flies, fleas, mosquitoes, and other parasites or suffer heatstroke and die, as Molly did. PETA urges anyone who witnesses neglect to report it to local authorities. If possible, witnesses should take pictures and note how long an animal is left without adequate food, water, or shelter.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, which is a human-supremacist worldview that fosters violence toward other animals. For more information, please visit


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