27 Investigates: Tar-covered dogs, strange odor led to E. Liverpool probe

EAST LIVERPOOL, Ohio (WKBN) – Two missing dogs in East Liverpool were reunited with their owner on Wednesday after both were found covered in thick, hot tar.

The first dog, a beagle boxer mix named Oden, was found Sunday near Michigan Avenue. On Tuesday night, a second dog, a pitbull named Miley, was discovered in the same area.

Both dogs were covered in tar, which they likely picked up in and around an old, abandoned building. It took their owner and groomers 16 hours total to wash all the tar and chemicals from their fur.

“Oden is still pretty bad. He is actually being cared for in a kennel. Miley is still in the vet. They kept her overnight last night. She has a couple large gashes on her, as well as still tar left on her,” the dogs’ owner, Alecia O’Hanlon, said.

An animal rescue crew came to East Liverpool to help search for the dogs. They said a neighbor tipped them off to the tar inside the warehouse, which led them to find Miley Tuesday behind the building.

“In all my time of searching for pets, I have never in my life seen anything like that. Never,” animal rescuer Renee Welch said. “And she [Miley] was found in at least a foot of this oil, laying there, unable to move, and the only thing that was not covered was the right side of her head.”

O’Hanlon said someone let the dogs out of their yard Friday. She thinks they might have been picked up and dropped off at that site.

She said she is just happy they are alive and grateful someone spoke up.

“If these people that live in this house right here would not have told her that there was tar back here, Miley would have been dead. She would have died in a tar pit because she would have never been found,” O’Hanlon said.

Miley and Oden still have a lot of recovering to do and a lot of questions remain, such as how did the dogs end up so far away from their home on the other side of East Liverpool?

O’Hanlon said she hopes no one else has to look for a lost pet at the abandoned warehouse.

“It’s sad and I really hope something is done about this mess. It’s bad,” O’Hanlon said.

The Ohio EPA and a hazardous materials team, along with multiple agencies from Ohio and West Virginia, were at the vacant Dacar Industries plant all day on Wednesday. The tar-covered dogs and a suspicious odor prompted the investigation.

According to James Datesh, president of Pittsburgh-based Dacar, the smell is believed to be a caulking adhesive. He said it is just an odor and is not hazardous.

Air quality tests were conducted throughout the day to determine what kinds of chemicals were at the site as well as the source of the odor.

East Liverpool Service-Safety Director Ryan Estell said all the tests showed there was not a threat to the community.

Reports of the tar-covered dogs first surfaced on social media.

“I am a dog owner. I take it seriously. The owner of the dogs are unhappy, but they are living, which is good,” Datesh said.

The company said the tar and chemicals inside the building do not pose an immediate risk.

“Again, it is not meant to get on your skin or whatever,” Datesh said.

To get those chemicals out, the company will tear down the building. But, they have to follow strict code enforcement by the state.

“Certain materials have to be taken out per the Ohio EPA rules and protocols,” Datesh said.

Some of those chemicals include tar and chemicals found in caulking and soap products.

But, after crews left for the day Wednesday evening, security moved in.

Caution tape surrounds the building and the company is posting guards on the property to keep people off it overnight.

Cleanup crews with the company and Ohio EPA are expected to be back on the site around 8:30 a.m. Thursday.

Datesh said the demolition process has been under way for quite some time and is taking longer than expected. The plant has been closed for about three years, but it has been longer than that since an active workforce has been there.

According to the company’s website, Dacar Industries has made everything from water treatment systems to pesticides to adhesives. The Columbiana County Port Authority had identified the East Liverpool plant as a concern for petroleum pollution in 2010, but there was never any money to inspect or clean it up.

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