In South Dallas, a Fight Between Dog Rescuer and Neighborhood Turns Ugly. (RIP, Booger.)

Categories: Crime, The Courts

Raanel Steel.jpg
Photo by Anna Merlan
A years-long dispute between a woman who runs a dog rescue out of her home and her increasingly annoyed neighbors has resulted in hundreds of phone calls to Animal Control, a felony robbery conviction, one dead dog and, we're guessing, some pretty awkward block parties.

"This has been going on for ages," Raanel Steel says, sitting in her South Dallas home on a recent afternoon. "It's just nonstop."

Steel has lived in here for 11 years. Her neighborhood is tucked off a major road, but it feels almost rural: the street is winding and narrow, bordered with thick trees. Most of the houses sit on gentle hills. On a recent weekday afternoon, Steel sits in her kitchen with a niece and a close friend. She's almost 60 and has short blond hair; she wears a worn plaid shirt, her black glasses perched on top of her head.

Outside, 16 dogs race around the two lots she owns side by side. In a nearly two-hour visit, they are mostly inaudible. From the street, at least during these cold months, you also can't smell them. But inside the house, even with the dozens of cinnamon candles Steel had burning, the scent of dogs is so strong it seems on the verge of becoming a solid, something you could trip over if you weren't careful.

Eight years ago, Steel started volunteering at the Humane Society and doing dog rescue. "People just dump dogs everywhere" in Dallas, she says. She began bringing animals home from the shelter that were due to be euthanized, or taking in injured or abandoned dogs from local vets or that friends and acquaintances found and brought to her. At times she's had up to 27 dogs on the two adjacent lots she owns.

Her next-door neighbors, a couple named Brent and Nancy Thompson, were less than thrilled about her new mission. "They just didn't like that at all," she says.

They repeatedly called Animal Control to shut her down, Steel says. "The city said they wouldn't do anything unless other neighbors called, so they started going door to door." At one point, Steel says, they also began circulating a petition to try to have her kicked out of the neighborhood. (The Thompsons couldn't be reached for comment.)

"We have been trying to get some help with this situation for at least six years," the Thompsons wrote in an undated complaint to Code Compliance, a copy of which Steel shared with Unfair Park. "Channel 8 even came out and did a story showing the barking, fleas and filth that we have been forced to live with. The stench of urine and feces and just plain stink that comes with this many dogs has made our home an undesirable place to be."

The result of all the calls to the city, according to Steel and a binder full of police reports she keeps, is that Animal Control has come to her home more than 150 times. According to the reports, they've never found a code-compliance issue. Many of them specifically state that they found reports of fleas or piles of feces to be unfounded. (Domanick Munoz, one of the animal cruelty investigators who's been called to her house frequently, didn't respond to phone calls seeking comment.)

"They're just harassing her," says Jonnie England, the director of Animal Advocacy and Communications for the Metroplex Animal Coalition. She has followed the case from the beginning. "I can't believe they convicted her. I thought they would throw it out."

Neighbor relations reached their nadir in 2009. Steel says that she'd just returned home from a friend's funeral when she heard her dogs barking furiously outside. She looked out the window to see what was going on and saw a neighbor, Jose Mejia, who disliked the dogs standing just in front of her fenced-in yard, filming the dogs as they barked at him. She says the dogs are usually well-behaved and don't bark that way.

"The dogs already don't like him," she says. "He hates them and they know it." Mejia, she says, "wanted to get the dogs to bark for fifteen minutes consecutively. If you get two tickets in a twelve-month period you have to move your dogs."

As the dogs became more and more agitated, Steel admits she lost her temper. But, she says, "He baited me. I was so sick and tired of the whole thing... I'm not some kind of crazy woman who just goes berserk."

Steel says she had been making curtains earlier that week; she grabbed the wooden dowel they were to hang on and ran out the front door. "I go running out of the house with the curtain rod," she says. "And I screamed at him to get off my property."

Mejia didn't budge, she says, just began laughing at her. "So I lost it, totally lost it. I took the curtain rod and knocked camera out of his hand and tried to break it. I picked up camera and audio recorder, gave him a filthy look and marched off to the house."

When Mejia demanded his camera back, "I said no, because I wanted to give it to an attorney" to prove that Mejia, along with the other neighbors, had been harassing her and provoking the dogs. (Court records indicate that Steel hit Mejia with "a stick," but it was later amended to read "a pipe.")

When she ran inside to call the police, she says, her dogs became so agitated that they started fighting, and one of them, a smaller dog she called Booger, was killed.

Steel was arrested soon after the incident. She sat in jail for five days, charged with aggravated robbery, a second-degree felony. Mejia accused her of beating him about the face and neck with the curtain rod, a charge she also denies; she wasn't ultimately charged with assault.

Reached for comment, Mejia wasn't eager to discuss the case.

"My side of the story is ultimately that we basically asked the city of Dallas to enforce their own code," he says. "And that has been it. ... As far as the case, the law was basically -- justice was given. That's my side of the story."

Steel is unlikely to do any prison time for her offense, but she's not excited about the prospect of ten years of parole either, which her attorneys say is an option.

"I'm 58. I'm not going to be thinking about this when I'm 70," she says. But she's more concerned that the conviction will lead to the city taking her dogs away. "The last thing on earth I want as a rescue person is for my dogs to be pulled."


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827 comments
Beauverre
Beauverre

By the way it looks like the public has grown tired of this story or maybe they can see through all the contradictions and lies. Ethier way, I think turd and others have had their fun and moved on.

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

there you go putting words in my mouth, but I would be afraid of being attacked, I've seen the capabilities of your posse, and I would never be dumb enough to put myself in that situation, turd or t bone might show up

Beauverre
Beauverre

Although Becky does not want to get together and see the videos or pictures we have if anyone else would like to see them it can be arranged. And not that it matters bur our dog had run out when the front door was oopen but was attacked by Nells dog in OUR front yard. She used to let her dogs out front all the time. She knows the truth and we know the truth.Becky can continue being Nells mouthpiece and people can see what we have been dealing with.

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

maybe you ought to read the blogs about how many dogs there are. I've been on the phone with her, at her house,and haven't heard any unlawful barking, they might bark when you show up, but I hate to tell you this, because you only like hearing evil bull****, some barked to say hello!!!!! Maybe your

DogLover
DogLover

I think she is doing a good thing, but she needs to live in the county where there are no enforceable laws about animals. If you live in a city, you have to live by city rules and even if they skirt the rule at least try to be a good neighbor.

Donamanque
Donamanque

My apologies. I typed "two months probation", but I meant "two years probation".

enough already
enough already

It is better to be thought a fool than to open one's mouth and prove it. It seems to me that the posts show people trying to reasonably state facts as they know it and others who rant and call evil down on any who don't see things their way. Perhaps it is best just to let the truth be shown in their senseless words rather that be drawn into an endless battle of tug-of-war.

Amyfitz1976
Amyfitz1976

Dogs or not...How about this lady take RESPONSIBILITY for her actions against this neighbor?? She broke the LAW....if i knew i could just hit someone because i was mad and get away with it there would be a lot of injured people out there!

Donamanque
Donamanque

The D.A. offered her two months probation. Please stop the hyperbolic, hysterical comments about prison time. Also, just for the record, Ms. Steel spent three nights in jail, not five days and her bail was negotiated down to $5000.

Guest
Guest

OK, to clear up the Channel 8/Channel 11, fleas/no fleas controversy:There were TWO news stories regarding Ms. Steel and her dogs. One was done by Channel 8, back in August of 2006 or 2007, (can't remember exactly, but of course it's just a matter of a little research) by a reporter named Craig Civale. This was the broadcast which included the clipboard and the fleas. Then, in 2009, immediately after the Citizens' Board upheld Animal Control's revocation of Ms. Steel's registration privileges, she apparently called Channel 11 to do a story showing how she was being unfairly treated by the city. A Ms. Martinez (can't remember her first name) was the reporter on that one. It has been mentioned that in this report, Mr. Mejia would not answer the door. In fact, he and his wife were both at work, at the time. Ms. Martinez left her card on the door and later that evening, when the Mejias came home, they called Ms. Martinez and spoke with her at length, however, none of those comments were included in the story.

another freakin guest
another freakin guest

y'all are crazy, she is a sweet sweet good hearted lady who would give the shirt off her back for anyone. To try to send her to prison is just wrong. I hope nobody ever helps you out. I have lost ALL faith in humanity. You all are just evil evil people and I wish the worst for all of you. What happened to people helping each other? Have any of y'all tried to help Nell with the dogs? Have you helped her find homes for them? Why cant you just come together as a community and help a neighbor out? That would be the Christian thing to do, but NO, you are selfish and mean freakin bullies. I hope your children have bucked teeth and get picked on and beaten up at school. And then I hope they get on drugs and your grandchildren get put into state's custody. And then I hope the ONE nice family out there who would adopt them and take care of them decides they dont want to because their shitty neighbor next door doesnt like kids.

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

gee where were you all today? I heard some more garbage about you people, you all are a real piece of work, and will go out of your way to hurt the people who DO NOT agree with you

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

Well for all you people who like following the posse over the cliff, we called ch 8 news, AND THEY SAID THERE WAS NO ARTICLE, OR NEWS REPORT!!!!!!!!!!

Beckytorgerson
Beckytorgerson

I would be honored to be her mouth piece thank you very much

Beauverre
Beauverre

One moment you say they don't bark and the next you say they are barking hello.Her dogs cannot see us when we come homem They do however run and throw themselves uo against the fence knocking down my bird houses and plants on the fence.before we put the wooden fence up they were in our yard all the time. They would love to kill my dog and that is why they try so hard to get over here.ok Becky twist it around to whatever Nell says.things have a way of working themselves out and you reap what you sow.It seems from what you have said Becky that Nell is reaping what she has sown.

Rachel
Rachel

 She is trying, really. She just keeps getting screwed at every corner she turns. She has lost her job (and cant get another one) she was in school and obviously cant do that anymore. She doesnt have any resources anymore. It's hard to find homes for the dogs when the cops are coming to your house almost every day for stupid stuff, like part of her tire was touching her grass,...so much stress makes it hard to function. Even when the dogs werent at her house anymore, they still called the cops on her every day for stupid stuff, just to mess with her. And they are STILL calling. She's already been to court but they keep calling and calling.

Solutions
Solutions

Truly, it is not what goes into one's moth that is bad, it is what comes out!!

Rachel Mullican
Rachel Mullican

She didnt hit anyone. The cops told her that in order for them to stop letting him come on her propertyshe had to prove it. So when he was on her property with a video camera, she knocked it out of his hand and gave it to her lawyer for proof. She hit the camera, not him. She was desperate and scared, this guy was coming to her house alllll the time. If the cops wanted proof, well she got it for them

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

I guess you need to look at your city officials and there corruption, it's all over the news, how about the people on death row, how many innocent people are there, from trumped up charges, and corrupt DA'S  What about responsibility? I think you need to read these blogs, there has been NO evidence about any dead dogs, (plural) that she threw in in the garbage, no proof of flea infestation, no proof of animal cruelty, no proof of neglect, NOTHING. Just a bunch of people who have an agenda. Like I said, I know Nell, and helped take care of her dogs while they were away, they are nice dogs, just not the cute fluffy kind, they have wonderful personalities, and the thought of them getting put down is not a thought I'm comfortable with. There IS a need for people like Nell, and I offered my help to her when she turned down a dog that I had found on I-45, told me her story, I did not judge her, I helped, I wanted to be part of a solution for her and not add to her problem. It takes a lot of love to drive that far everyday and spend the time it took to maintain there health and welfare.

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

Her bail also started at 25,000, which I think was absurd.

BB
BB

No, I think you have too much faith in humanity! Having faith that one person can care for 16 animals on her own is beyond understanding. There are plenty of instituions and individuals in the metroplex who would help her, it appears she believes she doesn't require assistance, which strikes me as delusional. It's not evil, it's reasonable.

Turd Ferguson
Turd Ferguson

That would be the Christian thing to do, but NO, you are selfish and mean freakin bullies. I hope your children have bucked teeth and get picked on and beaten up at school. And then I hope they get on drugs and your grandchildren get put into state's custody."LMAO  Yeah, that's pretty Christian. You know nothing about the teachings of Christ. You look like a fool.

Guest
Guest

Oh Rachel, how old are you? I'm sure much too young to be that cynical.  I'm really, sincerely sad that your mother is allowing you to be a part of this.

Beauverre
Beauverre

It doesn't matter concerned citizen.It doesn't "fit" with the story Becky and Nell want people to believe. I have a copy of the tape and as far as being scared? No one but Ms.Steel has exhibited any physical harm towards. I have the tape and discs of dog fights and the other things spoken of having to do with the dogs and would be more than happy to share them with the public.We could call channel 8 and Craig Civale out to do a follow up if they are interested.Becky will refute anything she sees or hears though because Nell is the victim here and she can't tolerate anyone else even asking questions. As far as turd and t bone are concerned...they are the public commenting on a public forum that Nell put this biased information out for the public to comment on. There has been NO information given out for those who want to adopt ,only degradation.When asked for info you said look it up duh.What is the name and number of the rescue so those that want to help can adopt? That is a very legit question.I am surprised it wasn't included in the article in the Observer.

concerned
concerned

The Thompsons offered to show you this report. They have it on tape. You refused to see it. Whoever you asked misinformed you. . . . if you did indeed ask.

Beauverre
Beauverre

Somehow I knew you would be.

guest
guest

I thought her job was running a rescue group and taking care of 16 dogs. How is she supposed to have another job and do that all by herself?

beauverre
beauverre

WHO is calling?No one at this address. And where is your Proof ? I live next door and I never see the police or anyone else for that matter there>And if she has no resources how is she taking care of all those poor dogs?

T-Bone
T-Bone

Why are you always giving Becky massages on the front lawn? DON'T STOP!! Just wondering why.

T-Bone
T-Bone

You do not need to know. When we are done you will be nothing but an ass face with a Tinker Bell mind!

T-Bone
T-Bone

Are you the young lady who lives with Becky? Why do you guys take some many showers together? And your bed is NEVER messed up.

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

You have your information about her 2 months probation being offered from what source? I think that would mean your pretty involved with this case, because I have not even heard that.

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

lets see, could this be where YOU mention my daughter 5 days ago jose???????

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

I didn't realize she was blogging, she's quite old enough, and she is too old for me to tell her what she can say about any situation. I'm very proud of her :)

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

maybe you ought to read the blogs about how many dogs there are. I've been on the phone with her, at her house,and haven't heard any unlawful barking, they might bark when you show up, but I hate to tell you this, because you only like hearing evil bull****, some barked to say hello!!!!! Maybe your

T-Bone
T-Bone

You are an idiot too. I never said that. 

T-Bone
T-Bone

You dumbfuck. I never mentioned a "mother/daughter" thing. That's you sick mind. Guilty of something, Beckers?

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

maybe you need to look at the guest comments, because it was brought up 6 days ago under guests post, are you now putting your stalking onto t-bone?

Beckytorgerson
Beckytorgerson

People keep making it clear that they are not my friend, well this is not about me at all, so feel free everyone don't be my friend, but at least stick up for what is right, and look at the truth. There is NO news 8 report

Beckytorgerson
Beckytorgerson

MOM idiot refers to her as my daughter, get it, girl name, usng mom, what else do you think it means? I'm going to look, and I pretty sure it was not him that refered to her as my daughter, well not the first one anyway

guest
guest

He is not my friend, I do not know who T-Bone is. And I read that comment. He said something like 'why does your mom let you do that'. There was no name. Whether or not they knew you are her mother I cannot say.

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

he is your friend, how is his bull**** any different then yours? Attack, attack attackP.S jose, I have never mentioned my daughter until someone commented on her blog, I did not even know she was on this post...... so tell me why the stalking if your such un upstanding citizen

guest
guest

Yes those comments are really not needed.

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

What kind of idiot are you????? Just like I said, you people are so far out there, I can't even comment about this one???  Lets see, slander, harassment, lies??????

T-Bone
T-Bone

Amy, are you the girl in "Taste IT, Don't Waste It?

Amyfitz1976
Amyfitz1976

Really....im not a friend of Becky's but comments like that are crude and uncalled for. This is a serious thing that a lot of people have been dealing with and unnecessary posts are not needed. Thanks

Donamanque
Donamanque

I mistakenly typed "months" instead of "years", all apologies.

T-Bone
T-Bone

Well, its rather simple, you are both idiots.

T-Bone
T-Bone

Becky, love is in the air....

Becky torgerson
Becky torgerson

I would like to know what kind of stalking method you are using to know she is my daughter?

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