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Animals in poor health taken from Rusk County home

By Clare McCarthy
June 29, 2017 at 10:54 p.m.

Forty-six animals found in poor condition with no food or water were seized Tuesday from a property near Henderson, according to the Rusk County Sheriff's Office.

Forty-six animals found in poor condition with no food or water were seized Tuesday from a property near Henderson, according to the Rusk County Sheriff's Office.

Sgt. David Roberts said the sheriff's office received a tip Monday about the welfare of the animals.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas and the Rusk County Sheriff's Office seized the animals after determining it was "in the animals' best interest to remove them," according to a statement from the SPCA.

In total, 28 dogs, nine kittens, six puppies, two cats and one red-eared slider turtle were removed.

Mary Katherine Erskine, owner of the property, has not been charged and is seeking to regain custody of the animals, the sheriff's office reported.

Multiple deceased dogs also were found on the land, some whose remains were too decomposed to move.

According to a warrant filed for the seizure of the animals, the owner told the animal control deputy that the dogs were "taken care of" and that "there was no problem with the dogs."

When asked if there were any dead animals on the property, the owner told the deputy there were a few, but she hadn't removed them from the property.

"(The deputy) asked where the (dead) animals were, and (the owner) advised there was one in a box on the trash pile, another wrapped in a sheet on the ground, then there was one in a bag by the door of the trailer," the warrant said.

The owner told the deputy one dog died of cancer and the others died of the parvo virus. When asked how she knew that, the owner said she had a puppy euthanized at the vet because it tested positive for the virus, according to the warrant.

Dogs were found throughout the property with no food or water, and some were found with chains so tangled up that they could not reach water near them, the warrant said. A pile of trash and used litter was also found near where the cats were kept in a travel trailer, the deputy reported.

"One dog and all of the cats were found living in the RV-type living quarters on the property, cruelly confined, forced to live in their own feces and debris, without access to appropriate food or water," the SPCA said in a statement. "The turtle was found in a small blue plastic pool outside the residence without access to appropriate food or water.

"The animals appear to have varying health issues, including malnourishment, hair loss, long nails, eye discharge and flea infestation. One dog had an extremely large growth on one leg. The chains used to restrain the dogs had rubbed the dogs' necks raw, and investigators had to use bolt cutters to free the dogs," the SPCA statement said.

The animals were transported to a SPCA facility in Dallas.

The SPCA stated the animals will be examined by medical staff and cared for until a custody hearing July 6 in Henderson.

Rusk County Justice of the Peace Pct. 4 Darlene Childress will preside over the case.

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