Animals rescued from 'heartbreaking' conditions on the road to recovery

Animals rescued from 'heartbreaking' conditions on the road to recovery
Updated: Jul. 12, 2018 at 7:13 PM CDT
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JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - As authorities continue to investigate an animal cruelty case involving around 100 dogs and cats in Jones County, The Humane Society of the United States is working to improve the health of the neglected animals.

Dozens of animals were seized from a 161-acre property on Lyons Ranch in Jones County on Wednesday after a weeks-long investigation into claims of animal cruelty.

According to the rescue teams at the scene, the animals were found living in horrendous conditions.

"All I can tell you is that it was truly heartbreaking. It's really difficult to see any living being cared for and housed in the way that they were," said Sara Varsa, Vice President of HSUS Rescue Team. "A lot of them were locked in cages and it was just caked with filth. So, they were living in their own waste and it was rusty and it was completely dark."

Volunteers with HSUS and Southern Cross Animal Rescue worked for hours to remove the animals from the property and transport them to a temporary emergency shelter for evaluation and treatment.

Varsa said many of the cats and dogs appeared to be suffering from lack of veterinary care and had obviously been living this way for some time.

"You'll see that they're missing huge patches of hair or have hair loss on specific parts of their body. Not only does that mean that their skin is exposed due to parasites, we're talking about external and internal. So, we're talking about fleas and we're also talking about worms.

Luckily, none of the animals had to be euthanized, according to Varsa.

"We are actually hopeful. We are optimistic that all of the conditions that we're seeing are things that we can treat or at least create a better quality of life than what they were in," said Varsa.

For the rescue teams who continue to work with these animals, their mission now is to earn the trust of the animals, improve their health and get them ready for adoption to new forever homes.

"This is the first day of the start of the rest of their lives," said Varsa. "We want to make sure we are treating all the condition that they've come off of the property with. Getting to know who each of them are as individuals, and then we would work with our placement partners around the country to ensure that they go into another loving environment that can find them their permanent home."

Maj. Jamie Tedford, with the Jones County Sheriff's Department, said Wednesday that charges are pending against two people. A sheriff's department spokesperson confirmed Thursday those people are not in custody and they have not been formally charged.

Also on Thursday, two residents who live near the property where the pets were rescued spoke to WDAM.  Neither wanted to be identified.

One resident said the people who lived on the property were not very friendly.  She also said on one occasion, several bags of dog food meant for the property where the animals were rescued were delivered to her home instead.

Another nearby resident said she once spoke to the man who lived on the property while he was walking a basset hound. She said he was quiet, but cordial.  She said there was also a woman who lived on the property, but she never met her.

According to HSUS, animal cruelty laws in Mississippi lag behind more strict laws in other states. The organization issued this statement on Mississippi animal cruelty laws:

Mississippi is one of only two states in the nation without felony penalties for egregious animal cruelty, such as torture or starvation, on the first offense. No matter how depraved an act of animal cruelty is, law enforcement can only charge the offender with a misdemeanor if they don't have a previous conviction for animal cruelty.

The HSUS and local advocates have worked for many years to pass legislation that would bring MS in line with the rest of the country.  Earlier this year, Speaker Pro Tempore Greg Snowden introduced legislation that would have corrected this disparity, but, as with prior years, the MS Legislature declined to hold a public hearing on the bill.

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