Rebecca Carey, a close friend said, was always on the lookout for animals needing her help.
That generous spirit cost the 23-year-old Decatur woman her life, when she was killed by multiple dog bites sometime over the weekend, DeKalb County police said Thursday.
"Since the second grade when she read the book 'Throw Away Pets,' she vowed to be a voice for all animals," her parents, Greg and Ellen Carey, said in a statement. "Upon placing her first abandoned animal in a permanent loving home in 2003, she volunteered countless hours with rescue networks and animal shelters. There she did what she loved the most: rescuing animals from untenable situations to find them safe, loving homes."
Carey had five dogs living with her at the time of her death. One of them was a pit bull she had owned for six years. The Georgia Perimeter college student had taken in another pit bull and a boxer mix, along with a Presa, a large Spanish breed.
Carey was also dogsitting a Presa owned by Jackie Cira, who discovered her friend's body Sunday afternoon after she failed to show up for work at Alpharetta's Loving Hands Animal Clinic.
"It looked like she had fallen and hit her head," said Cira, who lives in Loganville.
Officers initially thought they may be dealing with a homicide, said DeKalb police spokeswoman Mekka Parish. But it soon became clear that her attackers were four-legged.
With the consent of Carey's parents, the dogs were euthanized Wednesday, Parish said.
Cira said her friend would have been devastated to learn that all of the dogs were put down, particularly her 6-year-old pit bull Napoleon, who she had adopted when he was eight weeks old.
"They went everywhere together," said Cira, whose own dog, Danai, was euthanized."She was the love of my life."
Animal control officials acted too hastily, Cira said, adding it would have been possible to determine which dogs bit Carey. "We're talking about three very different breeds weighing around 80 pounds, 55 pounds and 15 pounds," the friend said.
But Tim Medlin, interim director of DeKalb Animal Control, said public safety is his first concern. "I won't put another person at risk," he said.
Cira speculated that her friend likely fell and hit her head as she attempted to break up a fight between the dogs. They were generally familiar with each other, save for one of the Presas, who Carey took in a week before her death, Cira said.
"She was a very experienced dog handler," she said, adding Carey was not naive when it came to dealing with aggressive canines.
"If she found out it was a dangerous dog, they were gone," Cira said. "She felt strongly that dangerous dogs had no business being in society where they could attack a child or something."
But Carey felt just as strongly that all animals deserved a chance to survive and thrive. In one of their last conversations, the woman told Cira she wanted to take in a baby squirrel.
"She was going to bottle feed it herself," Cira said.
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