Dog and cat left to die in Austin hotel room are doing just fine

Maxwell is doing just fine. 

During Tuesday's press conference at APD headquarters the 2-year-old American Bull Dog mix played with his new ball as if he were a puppy again.

And it's no wonder he's enjoying his life.

Because for nearly 20 days, Maxwell had no humans to care for him...left in a room at the Extended Stay Hotel on highway 35, locked in a cage with no food or water.

"Anyone in my unit, we've pretty much said this is probably the worst case we've seen where the dog actually survived," said Detective Tim Diven with the APD Animal Cruelty Unit.

Diven says the room had been rented out to Miranda and Christopher Darnell since February of 2015.

"Hotel staff didn't even know what was going on in that room, they were both heavy drug users," he said.

Police say the couple were behind on rent and they were being evicted.

When hotel staff knocked on the door on December 10th, no one answered.

"When they went into the room, there was cockroaches that fell from the doorway, bugs all in the room, they didn't even know there was any animals in there because there was so much trash in the room," Diven said.

Animal Control officers and Austin Police found an emaciated cat inside along with Maxwell who collapsed on the floor after being let out of his cage.

"It's my belief that they just left them there to die in the room," Diven said.

During the investigation, Diven tracked down Christopher Darnell.  Darnell told him he and Miranda moved out of the room on November 24th with no plans to go back for the animals...assuming they'd be taken to a shelter when the room was cleared out.  Darnell told Diven they had asked a friend to come feed the animals but that friend told APD she was never asked to do that.

The cat made a swift recovery and has already been adopted out.  In addition to being emaciated, a vet determined Maxwell was dehydrated, anemic, had fleas, sores...and was also suffering from Hypothermia.

"He went through a blood transfusion and several things that Austin Animal Center procedures did to make him at least healthy enough to give back to us," said Kim Waters, the Executive Director of Pflugerville Pets Alive.

Waters says Maxwell had been in their care before the Darnell's.  According to court paperwork, Miranda fostered the dog and then stopped answering phone calls from the shelter.

Waters says thankfully Max is as happy of a dog as he was when he was at the shelter before and he's ready to be adopted.

"He's looking for a pretty goofy family.  You can see that he's full of life, he's full of vigor, he wants to explore the world and we want to give him that opportunity," Waters said.

Austin Police are still looking for the Darnell's.  Detective Diven says they hop from hotel room to hotel room in the area so they're looking for anyone who knows where they are to call Austin Police.

They're charged with cruelty to non-livestock animals -- a felony-level offense.


The Austin Police Department are searching for two suspects wanted for Cruelty to Non-Livestock Animals and are asking the community to help bring them to justice.

Police said the suspects are Christopher Darnell, 37, and Miranda Darnell, 35.

The charges stem from a December 2015 call where a dog and cat, both severely emaciated, were found inside of a hotel room on the 8800 block of N I-35. Police said the pets were left inside of that room on November 24 by the suspects.

Police said both of the animals were in very bad condition. The cat was frail and losing its hair and the dog was locked inside of a cage, forced to lay in its own feces. The dog also had open sores and was covered in fleas. Neither of the animals had any food or water available.

Both of the animals are alive and expected to make full recoveries. 

Police are asking anyone with information on the Darnells to call 911 or 512-978-0523.

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