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Apr 24, 2008

40 animals seized in Stephenville, Texas

40 animals seized

Woman assaults animal control officer

Published: Tuesday, April 22, 2008 1:12 PM CDT

Eighteen dogs, 11 puppies and 11 cats were seized from a home in the 800 block of Paddock Street Saturday. The owner of the animals was arrested and booked into the Erath County Jail after she refused to cooperate with law enforcement officials and allegedly attacked a city code enforcement officer.

Iris Jean Edwards, 59, was arrested for assault of a public servant, a third degree felony punishable by a maximum fine of $10,000 and two to 10 years in jail. She was also charged with interfering with public duties, a class B misdemeanor, punishable by a maximum fine of $2,000 and up to 180 days in jail.

Edwards was released from custody Sunday after posting a $5,000 bond for the assault charge and $1,000 for interfering with duties.

According to Police Chief Roy Halsell, Edwards was arrested after authorities received a call reporting that a dead dog was in the street in a neighborhood near her home. When animal control officer Frank Morecock responded, eight dogs were seen roaming in the immediate area. When asked about the dogs’ owner, neighbors pointed in the direction of Edwards’ home.

Halsell said when Morecock went to Edwards’ residence, she began throwing the animals inside of the house. Morecock explained that city ordinance states that only three dogs are allowed within city limits and she would have to relinquish five of the dogs to be in compliance. Edwards refused and the code officer requested assistance from the Stephenville Police Department.

Due to Edwards’ continued refusal to cooperate, a seizure order was obtained from Judge Shawnee Bass, which allowed officers to enter the property and take control of the animals. When presented with the order, Edwards punched Morecock in the chest, arm and face.

Upon entering the home, officers were faced with conditions unfit for animal or human inhabitance.

“There was a horribly strong odor in the home. Feces were everywhere. The dogs were thin and drawn, obviously underfed. They were covered in fleas and mange and some were even running a fever,” Halsell said. “Closed in one room of the home were 18 barking dogs, living in their own excrement. Officers found a pit bull locked in a pantry or small closet. Officers also found 11 puppies and 11 cats which were underfed and covered in mange.”

Halsell also said that once inside the home, Morecock was attacked by a fearful feline.

Perhaps more shocking was the dead dog found inside the home and the skulls of four dead animals littering the yard outside the residence.

All 40 animals were taken from the home and moved to the Erath County Humane Society where they remained Monday morning. Shelter manager Judy Hallmark said she was present when the animals were removed from the home and conditions at the residence were unimaginable.

“The bad thing is, in cases like this, the people involved think they are somehow helping the animals,” Hallmark said. “They tell themselves if they bring them to the shelter, they will be killed. The truth is, the conditions they were living in are far more cruel.”

Hallmark said overcrowding has become a bigger issue with the additional 40 animals.

“We can feed the animals, that is not a problem,” Hallmark said. “The problem is we have nowhere to put them.”

While the fate of their owner is uncertain, the fate of the animals is now in the hands of the shelter. Hallmark said that due to their condition, many would have to be euthanized.

“There are a few of them that we will be able to save, Hallmark said. “Sadly, the rest will never have a chance to be adopted.”

The judge said that a hearing would decide if Edwards could be reunited with some of the animals.

“If it is determined that she can care for the animals, she could be able to get back the number of animals that the ordinance allows,” Bass said.



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