CHADDS FORD, Penn. - Acting on a tip from a local animal rights activist, police and SPCA officers raided the home of longtime pug figurine collector Dotsie Kerrigan, 67, yesterday. As horrified neighbors in the exclusive development of Chadds Ford Knoll looked on, police removed more than 250 pug figurines from Kerrigan's $850,000 mock Tudor house.
"It was easily the worst case of neglect I've seen in twenty-two years on the force," said Lieutenant Brad Milanski. "Those dogs hadn't been dusted in months. They were starved for attention. Some of them were lying helplessly on their sides caked with dried food, and one or two that had suffered broken legs in falls will probably have to be destroyed."
According to Roxanne Newkirk, president of the Chadds Ford chapter of the Animal Liberation Front, the raid on Kerrigan's house was long overdue. "These collectors who have far more dogs than they can possibly take care of inflict untold misery and suffering on helpless figurines. They've got to be stopped, and the only way to stop them is with a figurine-limitation ordinance."
Neighbors told police they had become concerned last week when the recently widowed Kerrigan didn't show up for the Colonial era cooking class she conducts at the nearby Chadds Ford Historical Society. "I suspected there might be something wrong when Dotsie missed class," said Dorothy Scott Key, president of the historical society. "We were doing Scotch eggs last week, and Dotsie never missed a Scotch eggs class."
When Kerrigan missed class again this week and didn't return phone calls, neighbors considered the matter serious enough to be placed on the agenda at the Chadds Ford Knoll Home Owners Association meeting this month. In the meantime, however, Newkirk went to Kerrigan's house under the pretext of buying a pair of life-size, show quality sandcast pug figures.
Kerrigan, who is well known as an exhibitor and a judge on the pug figurine show circuit, didn't respond to the door bell. Newkirk peered through a window and saw Kerrigan sprawled on a sofa, apparently unconscious. The coffee table in front of the sofa was cluttered with empty pudding containers and dozens of pug figurines, who looked as if they had been desperately trying to get at the food.
"My first thought was for the poor figurines," said Newkirk. "I would have broken in and liberated them, but I've already got two priors for breaking and entering, so I went home, e-mailed the members of our group, made a few picket signs, and called the police."
Kerrigan, who complained of dizziness after the police had awakened her, refused medical treatment. She told Lieutenant Milanski that she had been depressed since her fourth husband, Merrill, had died and that she hadn't left the house for the last two weeks.
"Ever since my husband passed, I haven't really felt like seeing anyone," she said. "I don't think I'll replace him because I don't want to go through this pain again."
Police have not decided whether charges will be brought against Kerrigan. They allowed her to keep a few of her favorite figurines that appeared to be in good condition, apart from looking undernourished. The fate of the other dogs removed from her house remains uncertain. They are being housed temporarily at the Chadds Ford police station.
"The officers here just love them," said Lieutenant Milanski. "The dogs are so friendly. All they want is for someone to show them a little affection. They'd make wonderful pets. I'd take one home myself, but my wife says if I bring home one more dog figurine, she'll divorce me."
The Animal Liberation Front says it is prepared to go to court to prevent the sogs "from falling into that evil woman's clutches again."
Mary Lou Constantine, president of the PFCA (Pug Figurine Club of America), wants the dogs placed with "responsible collectors." According to Constantine, "These dogs are far too valuable to be placed in pet homes or, worse yet, in the homes of backyard collectors."
In related news, the Chadds Ford Historical Society will hold a mulled cider and scones party this weekend to raise funds for the care of the figurines while they are in police custody.