Animal 'lover' busted second time for animal cruelty in foster home

This is supposed to be a foster home for dogs and cats rescued from animal shelters. (Calhoun Police photo)

It’s a worthy effort — Georgians who rescue dogs from crowded animal shelters before they’re euthanized.

But a December animal cruelty arrest raises questions about whether some are more focused on the rescue and less on where those dogs wind up.

"Not everybody who rescues dogs is a good person," warned Jason Flatt, founder of Friends to the Forlorn Pitbull Rescue in Paulding County.

Flatt is especially critical of David Edwards, a 59-year-old Calhoun resident who has spent years fostering rescue dogs in his home until they can be adopted.

On December 14, 2022, authorities in Calhoun say they received a tip from an acquaintance of Edwards, worried that the dogs "were in bad conditions and needed help."

When Calhoun police and animal control arrived, what they found took their breath away.

Seriously. They couldn’t breathe inside Edwards’ house.

"Worst I’ve ever seen," said Calhoun Animal Control Director Clyde Burchett.

They counted 21 dogs and three cats in the filthy two-story home, most living in individual cages stacked on top of each other.

"We actually had one dog that was soaking wet," said police chief Tony Pyle. "And we realized that the only way that could have happened was if another animal had urinated and it just dropped down on top of him."

Edwards' home was so filthy authorities had to use hazmat suits and respirators to go inside. (Calhoun Police photo)

The stench was so bad police had to call the fire department for their hazmat gear. Parts of the walls had been damaged. A sofa torn apart.

Chief Pyle said Edwards was at the house with the same staggering smell about him. He was charged with 24 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

David Edwards was taken to jail on misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. It's not the first time.

"The only thing he told us is if y’all will give me about a week and come back I’ll have all this cleaned up and everything taken care of," said Pyle. "I don’t know if it can ever be cleaned up."

One of the dogs had to be euthanized after biting Burchett. Five others remain at the Calhoun Animal Shelter, the rest returned to the rescue groups that originally vouched for Edwards.

A tragic situation for those animals. So why did it have to happen twice?

In 2017, Kennesaw police and code enforcement walked into Edwards' home and documented "unsanitary conditions." (Kennessaw Police photo)

In 2017, Kennesaw police found 16 dogs in unsanitary conditions living in a home owned by David Edwards.

On police body cam video, Edwards sounded relieved that he was being shut down.

"You know how those rescue people are.," Edwards told police. "Guilting you at every turn. I obviously look terrible. I’m clinically depressed. I don’t want to live like this. I want this to be over."

Edwards was eventually indicted on misdemeanor animal cruelty. A judge ordered him to pay $21,697.39 to cover Cobb County’s cost of caring for the dogs.

The rest of the court records are sealed.

So how did Edwards and more dogs wind up in the same horrible situation just five years later?

Jason Flatt was an early critic of David Edwards. He says much of the blame for Edwards' actions should be focused on the rescue groups who continued to send him dogs.

Pit Bull Rescue founder Flatt blames the rescue groups.

"The first time everybody’s like oh, support Dave Edwards. He didn't do anything wrong" remembered Flatt. "Unfortunately, people just see dogs leaving pounds. But they don’t see where they’re going and they don’t vet the people that are taking these dogs in."

Since Edwards does not have his own non-profit, he fostered dogs for licensed rescue groups.

But state law requires those groups inspect their foster homes every six months.

Calhoun authorities say three of the seized dogs belonged to Ginny Millner Rescue in Atlanta.

Ms. Millner did not respond to questions about the last time she inspected Edwards’ Calhoun house or why she trusted him after his first animal cruelty arrest.

Edwards' Calhoun house is owned by Susan Bostick Fassnacht, a local resident active in animal rescue. She did not respond to questions about whether she was aware of conditions inside her house.

The Calhoun house is actually owned by Susan Bostick Fassnacht, another active animal rescuer. She also did not return repeated requests for comment about whether she knew the conditions inside that home.

"People say you need to show compassion towards people," said Flatt. "I show compassion to people who want to change."

Late Thursday Edwards' attorney Max Hirsh issued this statement:

"Rescuing enough animals is always an uphill battle, and unfortunately tens of thousands of animals are euthanized every year in Georgia shelters.  Exacerbating the problem is that many animals adopted during the pandemic have since been abandoned in shelters and roadsides.

Mr. Edwards’ intentions were to save as many animals as possible.  He certainly tried to rescue more than he was able to.  No formal funding, a broken leg, and his inability to say no contributed to him getting in over his head.  To be clear, these comments are by way of explanation not excuse.  Mr. Edwards’ intentions were to save animals’ lives, he made a mistake by trying to save them by the dozens."