(CALDWELL COUNTY, TX, DALLAS, TX); February 27, 2017– Today, before a custody hearing at the Caldwell County Justice Center in Lockhart, TX, an agreement was reached between the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, the SPCA of Texas and the owners of 421 animals seized under the Texas state cruelty statute, signed by 421st District Judge, the Honorable Chris Schneider, for the animal owners to relinquish ownership of the animals to the SPCA of Texas. The SPCA of Texas waived restitution, and further agreed that one dog will be returned to its rightful owner, which is someone other than the individuals the animals were seized from. The animal owners waived their right to an appeal, so the animals will now be individually evaluated for potential placement or adoption on a case by case basis, with the exception of the one dog.
On February 20, under the authority of the Caldwell County Sheriff's Office, the SPCA of Texas took custody of 421 allegedly cruelly confined animals from a property near Lockhart, TX, in Caldwell County. The animals included approximately 150 feeder mice and rats, 86 snakes, 56 guinea pigs, 28 dogs, 26 rabbits, 15 goats, 9 doves, 8 skinks, 7 ferrets, 7 pigs, 6 pigeons, 4 geckos/lizards, 4 gerbils, 4 turtles, 3 bearded dragons, 2 ducks, 2 miniature pigs, 2 tortoises, 1 tarantula and 1 turkey. Dozens of deceased animals were also found on the property.
The living animals were transported to the SPCA of Texas' Animal Rescue Center, Empowered by PetSmart Charities, in Dallas and the Russell H. Perry Animal Care Center in McKinney, where they were examined by medical staff and cared until today's custody hearing.
To download photos from the scene, please click HERE.
Most of the animals were found living inside a house on the property. Inside the house, the smell of urine was overpowering. The SPCA of Texas measured the ammonia level in the residence to be 29 parts per million (ppm). As a point of reference, short term exposure to any ammonia level over 20 ppm or long term exposure to any level over 12 ppm can cause health problems in humans.
Amid the clutter and dozens of deceased animals of many species, living animals were housed in small, feces-filled cages or roaming free in the bedroom. Most of the snakes were living in a closet and a bathroom. One dog was living inside a guinea pig enclosure. Most of the reptiles were not being properly housed, most not having appropriate food, living in their own filth, without functioning and/or appropriate heat lamps. Some dogs and all of the rabbits, goats and pigs were living in the yard and in a shed on the property in wire cages, carriers and homemade enclosures.
Many of the animals were suffering from various health issues, including long nails, eye issues and malnutrition. One dog has eyes issues in both eyes.
The Caldwell County Sheriff's Office reached out to the SPCA of Texas regarding the animals' conditions the week prior to the seizure. The Caldwell County Sheriff's Office explained the animals conditions, and the two agencies agreed that it was in the animals' best interest to remove them. The Caldwell County Sheriff's Office sought a search and seizure warrant and the animals were removed on February 20. It is the SPCA of Texas' understanding that criminal charges are pending.
To help support the SPCA of Texas and its efforts to help abused, neglected and homeless animals and to support the SPCA of Texas' other programs and services, please visit www.spca.org/helptheanimals.