Thursday, February 11, 2010
Authorities rescue dogs at Red Banks
By SUE WATSON
A search warrant was executed at 210 Turner Cove near Red Banks Thursday and 95 dogs and one cat were seized by animal rights groups.
Animals were taken to the Marshall County Humane Society’s Spay/Neuter Clinic in Byhalia for examination and processing, according to Sheriff Kenny Dickerson.
The warrant was issued by justice court based upon an affidavit for a search by county prosecutor Shirley Byers, Dickerson said.
The investigation followed, based upon at least one allegation in December 2009 that animals were not being cared for properly at the location, according to Maggie Holmes, president of the Marshall County Humane Society.
“We walked in about 9 in the morning and left the property by a quarter to 5 (p.m.),” she said. “By that time all animals were rescued and processed for intake and evidence was gathered throughout the property.”
Although many apparently healthy dogs were included among those that were sick with skin or eye diseases, Holmes said some were in much worse condition.
“There was plenty of evidence the animals were fed, but there was no handling of animals (socialization) which would be important issues in rehabilitation,” she said.
One animal had surgical removal of an eye Friday.
Tim Rickey, senior director of field investigations and response department with the ASPCA New York (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) led the fact-finding portion of the investigation at the invitation of the county prosecutor and the sheriff.
Rickey said he was invited to help coordinate a walk-through team, documenting conditions at the kennels where dogs were found in various conditions, some housed outside in open pens and others indoors inside cages under crowded conditions.
The dominant breeds were Corgies, Chihuahuas, Yorkies, terriers, poodle mixes and Shih Tzus, he said.
He described conditions at the kennels, both indoors and outdoors, as “deplorable.”
Animals kept in outdoor pens were sheltered in barrels without hay for bedding, and food and water was found mixing with animal feces, he said.
“The animals have to lay in their own filth,” he said.
At least five puppies were found dead.
Clean water and adequate food were not available in pens outside, where puppies had apparently walked through their water with muddy feet, Rickey said. Food lay on the pen floors amongst feces, and most plastic barrels that would have served as shelters had water, mud and no dry hay for bedding, he said.
Most of the dogs, however, looked as if they were adequately nourished, based on bodily appearance, Rickey said.
Some dogs had mange or severe skin conditions and the search party found deceased animal carcasses about the property, he said.
About 70 dogs were kept inside small cages inside a house with insufficient space, he said. Sheriff Dickerson said the odor inside the facility was extremely unpleasant.
The American Humane Association, Collierville Animal Shelter and Marshall County Animal Shelter assisted the ASPCA in removal of the animals, fact-finding and collection of evidence.
Holmes said 30 animals were transported to a shelter in the Atlanta, Ga., area Saturday. About five pets were taken to the shelter in Olive Branch Friday. The remaining dogs were flown via Pet Air to a shelter in North Shore, N.Y., she said.
In recalling how the matter was handled, Holmes said an anonymous tip came in in December and the Humane Society took a look and realized the rescue of the animals was a bigger project than could be handled locally, even with the help of several Humane Societies in the area.
From there the Humane Society talked to Byers and the ASPCA. Because it was a holiday, execution of the search warrant was slowed. Also, ASPCA was conducting an investigation into a pet mill in Clarksdale in January where 260 dogs were rescued.
“Then they came up to help us,” Holmes said.
On site locally to assist in the rescue were six members of the ASCPA, nine members of the American Humane Association, three people from the Collierville Animal Shelter, who brought their van to be used as the main transport vehicle, and three members of the Marshall County Humane Society.
Five or six staff members with Mississippi State University - two veterinarians, two technicians and two assistants - were on site to examine the animals at the Humane Society’s Spay/Neuter Clinic in Byhalia, Holmes said. Six additional members of the local Humane Society were there to assist.
Holmes said she believes the rescue was a positive experience, in light of snow on the ground Monday morning, which would have meant dogs housed in the outdoor pens would have been exposed to the elements.
Sheriff Dickerson confirmed the findings reported by Rickey and Holmes, including carcasses in various states of decay - none freshly dumped. He said the carcasses could have been the results of death of animals due to cold weather.
He said several dogs inside the residence appeared “slick and pretty and in much better condition than those outside.”
He said the animal owners voluntarily stepped aside and surrendered the animals.
“This was not a forcible removal of animals but a voluntary surrender of animals by the owners,” he said.
No charges had been filed against the owners of the animals, John and Nancy Garrison, as of Monday, according to the investigating authorities.
He called the action “unprecedented” in the number of animals seized in his many years of law enforcement.
The sheriff’s office has, on occasion, served search warrants to rescue several horses and up to eight or nine dogs at a time, he said.
“The magnitude of so many animals being confined in such a small area is unprecedented,” he said.
Dickerson said an inventory of animals and other evidence were turned over to Marshall County Justice Court Friday for review.
“This case is like any other animal case we deal with,” he said.
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