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Duchess the Dalmatian's Story Spreads Worldwide, Thanks To The Internet

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HARNETT COUNTY — Duchess the dalmatian became a worldwide symbol of animal neglect last year. Her story reached amazing places, thanks to the Internet.

Last August, Duchess' story found a worldwide audience on WRAL OnLine. Neighbors rescued Duchess from her owners, who were later convicted of animal neglect.

Donations poured in to help cover veterinary bills, though Duchess later died of acute anemia. E-mail complaints also poured into theHarnett County Web sitefrom as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

Animal lovers were angry that animal control officers did not act more quickly and angry that county courts did not punish more severely.

Tony Wilder, Harnett County Assistant Manager, used the story to illustrate a point at their annual meeting of city and county leaders in the state.

"You're dealing with a whole new world now that the Internet is out there," he says. "Once a story has been put out on the Internet, it's history. You have to deal with it and you have to deal with it quickly."

Wilder says the county's Web site gave them a way to get their own story out and respond directly to e-mail complaints.

"We got a lot of favorable responses back from the same people. They were happy to see the people of Harnett County taking the situation under control."

Wilder says the Internet can put any city or county government under the microscope, but it also gives government leaders a chance to depend less on local media and take control of the story.

As a result of the Duchess case, county animal control officers will place more importance on investigating animal cruelty and abuse complaints.


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