A Fort Worth animal rescue organization is preparing for what its founder fears will be another busy weekend at a park with a reputation as a dumping site for dead and dying dogs.
Echo Lake Park, south of East Berry Street and just east of Interstate 35W outside of Downtown Fort Worth, has a long history as a hidden spot to abandon animals that are victims of abuse, including dog fighting, according to The Abandoned Ones and law enforcement.
The Abandoned Ones founder Judy Obregon claims she has successfully rescued and adopted out 200 dogs found in poor shape at Echo Lake Park. She makes twice-daily trips to the park, six days per week in an effort to find the next animal in need.
“Even if I miss a day, I visualize this animal just sitting on the corner, waiting for somebody to come save that animal. And typically I’m right,” she said.
A recent success story for Obregon is a dog she named Mercy, a pit bull she initially feared was dead upon first sight.
Obregon shared a video of her initial encounter with Mercy on Facebook on Oct. 4. In the video, the dog is seen struggling to stand as its hind legs struggle to support any weight.
Obregon took Mercy to a veterinarian that day, who indicated that Mercy had suffered multiple fractures to her lower half, with essentially her entire back broken. The injuries, according to Obregon’s account of the vet’s examination, could have been the result of abuse, including being thrown from a moving car.
Ten days after the initial encounter, Mercy was released from a vet’s care and is walking on her own. Obregon hopes to have Mercy available for adoption within a few weeks.
“I’m just happy that she survived, because most of the animals that I find here are dead,” Obregon said.
Despite being surrounded by the City of Fort Worth, Echo Lake Park is under the jurisdiction of the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office, according to spokesman Terry Grisham. But any dumped dog reports, or animal cruelty cases, would be handled by Fort Worth Animal Control and the Fort Worth Police Department because the county does not have the specialized staff to handle that type of work.
According to Obregon, Fort Worth police have multiple open animal cruelty investigations based on dogs she has found dead at Echo Lake Park. A Fort Worth Police Department spokesperson referred any questions about the park to the Tarrant County Sheriff’s Office
Mary Benavides does not care who handles the case; she just wants to find her dog. She has been searching for Coco, a Chihuahua-Jack Russell terrier mix, for three weeks since she believes it was stolen from her yard. She approached an NBC 5 news crew at Echo Lake Park Thursday with a Missing poster of her dog.
“I came to this place because this place is known for torturing animals, killing them and using them as bait [for dog fighting]” Benavides said about Echo Lake Park, where she has come at least twice a week since her dog disappeared. “This area is known for that.”
Benavides reached out to Obregon’s rescue group, as well as others in the Fort Worth area, for help spreading the word about Coco.