Friday, October 08, 1999

911 call to rescue dog brings charge

Woman reported house on fire

Enquirer Contributor

        MIDDLETOWN— A Middletown woman who made a false 911 call to get her trapped puppy rescued has a date in Middletown Municipal Court.

        Wanda Stapleton, 29, faces a first-degree misdemeanor charge of making false alarms, Middletown Police Chief Bill Becker said.

        A warrant officer served Mrs. Stapleton with a summons Thursday morning, more than a week after her Sept. 28 call that resulted in a fire crew responding to her Lawn Avenue home. Mrs. Stapleton — frustrated in two earlier calls for help for her newborn puppy — made a third call and told a 911 dispatcher her house was on fire.

        “This was just a total inappropriate use of emergency resources,” Chief Becker said.

        Chief Becker said a Municipal Court judge will determine whether Mrs. Stapleton will pay a fine or spend time in jail for making the call.

        Mrs. Stapleton had made two calls to a 911 dispatcher, asking help in saving an hours-old Doberman Pinscher puppy stuck in an exposed mattress spring. When the dispatcher determined Mrs. Stapleton's situation was not dangerous to human life, he declined her requests.

        So Mrs. Stapleton called 911 again, this time telling the dispatcher her house was on fire.

        “I didn't think I had any other choice,” Mrs. Stapleton said Thursday in an interview at her home, where her family has a dozen dogs and cats. But when fire crews showed up, they found no house fire.

        Instead, they found Mrs. Stapleton asking them to help rescue one of her nine newborn puppies from the mattress. Mrs. Stapleton said her husband put out the mattress so the dogs would be more comfortable.

        Middletown Fire Chief John Sauter said his crews warned her that she could have been cited for the false call, but decided to rescue the pup anyway.

        “We don't know when we're responding to an alarm whether it's an emergency or a false alarm, but we treat all of them like it's an emergen cy,” Chief Sauter said.

        Out of the fire department's estimated 6,600 calls each year to 911, Chief Sauter said, only a handful are related to animal rescues.

        Mrs. Stapleton said she is willing to pay a fine because she knew her 911 call was a false alarm. She has also been advised to call the police department's humane officer for assistance next time.

        There has been criticism from some local residents, which Mrs. Stapleton said she has heard about secondhand.

        “I thought I was doing the right thing,” Mrs. Stapleton said. “All life is the same to me. You have to do something if an animal or a human is suffering.”

        Meanwhile, the puppy rescued from the mattress spring is doing fine.

        His name? Springer.


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