Bastrop County Animal Control seized eight surviving and four dead dogs from the front yard of a Texas home last week. Neighbors had been complaining about dogs being chained in front of the house and the conditions of the dogs since January.
One resident said that dogs were being chained up outside of the house since late January. She also stated that in March, there were 13 dogs chained outside with no food, water or shelter. Puppies were also locked in crates outside in the sun without water or food. Pictures were taken of the dogs and affidavits were sent to animal control documenting the conditions.
More on the investigation after the jump.
An animal control officer, Kevin Johnson, went to the house and spoke with one of the owners, who said that she was a dog breeder.
At that time, Johnson said, he thought the dogs’ thinness could be attributed to a pit bull’s natural build.
But the overgrown grass and dirty yard, combined with the dogs’ thinness, raised a red flag for him and others at animal control.
Investigators visited the house about eight times in April and May, Johnson said.
Bastrop County law requires owners to provide dogs and other animals with “sufficient good and wholesome food and water, adequate shelter and protection from the weather, (and) veterinary care when needed to prevent suffering.” If a dog is chained, the chain must be at least 8 feet long.
Johnson said he did not think during those visits that Schmitz had violated the law.
The puppies’ areas were stained with urine and feces, “but that’s puppies for you,” Johnson said.
Several of the dogs had tipped over their water dishes, “but what dog doesn’t do that sometimes?” he asked.
The chains were at least 8 feet long, though some were shortened by tangles, he said.
Without clear evidence of neglect or abuse, animal control officers did not think they had grounds to take the dogs, he said.
Then finally, there was evidence of neglect and abuse on June 7. A dog was found dead hanging from the chain it had wrapped around the post. 10 dogs were still chained outside the house. The owners were nowhere to be found. Johnson didn’t seize the dogs at that point because he thought he required a deputy’s assistance to remove the dogs (The sheriff’s office said that a deputy’s presence is not required and animal control can seize animals). He left a warning note on the door to the owners.
On June 12, animal control officers returned to the house to find 4 dead dogs and 8 dogs in poor conditions and seized the dogs from the property. One puppy soon died after being taken away from the house and a female dog, the mother to some of the puppies, had to be euthanized due to her poor condition.
Bastrop County sheriff’s investigators are reviewing the case to determine whether animal cruelty charges should be filed against Erin Schmitz, 20, who had rented the pale yellow house on Texas 95 where the dogs were found. Schmitz and her family did not return e-mail or phone messages left this week.
Justice of the Peace Bill Weddle said Wednesday that the case appears to be among the worst he has seen.
“If you chain a dog up, and you don’t give the dog water or feed, that’s the height of animal cruelty,” Weddle said.