JONES COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - The Jones County couple charged in an ongoing animal cruelty investigation have been released from jail on their own recognizance.
David and Mary Ellen Senne made their first court appearance in justice court just after Jones County Sheriff Alex Hodge released new details during a news conference Monday morning.
The Sennes are each charged with aggravated cruelty to a dog or cat. About 100 animals were seized from their property on Lyons Ranch Road last week after authorities found them living in deplorable conditions.
Sara Varsa, Vice President of The Humane Society of the United States Rescue Team, said the animals were "caked with filth" and "living in their own waste."
Hodge said 17 animals were found dead on the property.
Hodge said the department took a few days to release charges against the couple because his department sought out advice on making charges harsher.
According to Mississippi law, the most the couple could be charged with is a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $2,500 and maximum jail time of six months.
The sheriff hopes this situation is an eye-opener that will get the state on board with creating tougher laws to protect animals.
Before appearing in court, Mary Ellen spoke freely as WDAM cameras were rolling. We asked if she thought she was taking care of dogs and cats properly.
"I do. I really do. I do," Mary Ellen answered.
When asked about the 17 dogs found dead on her property, she said, "Those were ones in the freezer that Dr. Martin...that were ready for burial at the Rainbow Bridge. We have a church on that property."
The animals are now being looked after by HSUS rescue workers, who said the animals are being treated so they can eventually be adopted out to loving homes.