Montgomery County Precinct 3 Constable Tim Holifield, who is over Montgomery County Animal Control, headed up the rescue of 298 dogs from a facility on Calvary Road in North Montgomery County on Tuesday, assisted by the Precinct 4 Constable’s Office, the Precinct 1 Constable’s Office, Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office, the Harris County Precinct 6 Constable’s Office, and the Humane Society of the United States. The hundreds of dogs, mostly Pit Bulls, were allegedly kept in inhumane conditions, with several needing immediate emergency veterinary attention. Ironically, the location where the warrant was executed touted itself as a “dog rescue.”
The operation began with a warrant service early Tuesday and the removal took until around 6 a.m. Wednesday. After meeting with the owner and checking the property, it was determined that all of the dogs should be seized due to their living conditions.
After seeing the enormous size of the task at hand, local officials called on the Humane Society of the United States for help. The Humane Society of the United States is the nation’s largest and most effective animal protection organization, backed by 11 million Americans.
Katie Jarl, HSUS Texas State Director, called the “dog rescue” a “large scale hoarding situation,” and called conditions “absolutely deplorable.”
“We came on-scene today and found conditions were absolutely horrible,” Jarl said. “Many (of the dogs) were living in cramped, stacked cages without access to clean water, veterinary care, and certainly without access to any outdoor enrichment.”
Jarl said many of the kennels and cages were so small the dogs were unable to stand or turn around and were lying in their own waste, trapped there for 23 to 24 hours per day without access to food. Inside the two-story house, one of five buildings on the property, investigators found around 80 more dogs in the same conditions. The smell was said to be so strong and foul that even seasoned investigators had to step out of the rooms to take a breath.
Constable Holifield said the investigation resulting in the massive seizure was the result of complaints lodged by former volunteers and workers, particularly an allegation that many dogs were recently lost due to heat and were buried in a mass grave on the property. As of this writing, that allegation has not been proven or disproven, with the focus being on rescuing the live dogs on location.
The Constable said the veterinarians investigating the animals’ conditions found many reasons for alarm, including malnourished, emaciated animals, and some with urine scalded feet from being unable to step out of their own waste in their undersized cages. One dog’s feet were so scalded it was laying on its back in its own urine in feces, presumably to take the pain off of its feet, he said.
“Several showed signs of recently giving birth,” Holifield said. “We don’t know where the puppies are – we’ll continue to evaluate that also.”
The dogs were individually crated and removed, with the operation still going into the early morning hours of Wednesday. They were transported to an undisclosed location. HSUS will bring in temperament testing volunteers from Texas A&M University Veterinary School of Medicine and veterinarians from across the state are giving of their own time to evaluate the animals and determine their medical needs, if any, Holifield said. After evaluation the animals must be held until a seizure hearing can take place before a Judge.Holifield and Jarl said they hope most of the dogs can eventually be adopted.
Holifield said the District Attorney will have the final review of evidence collected and determine what, if any, charges will be pursued.
Holifield said Wednesday the evaluation process was underway, enhancing the animals’ abilities for rehabilitation and to accurately portray to the court the condition of the animals with veterinary analysis of their weight, skin, hair and nail condition, as well as other factors.
The Constable said since the story broke calls have been coming in from across the country, as far away as New Jersey. People sent animals to the facility believing it was a boarding facility that cared for a breed that many would like to see become extinct.
“Many felt stood greater chance at survival through this rescue organization, only to find out that they have been removed because of deplorable conditions,” he said.
People paid money for boarding of the animals or relinquished them for long-term care and now want to know about reclaiming their dogs, which will be up to a judge. Holifield said proof of ownership will be needed, which can include veterinary records, photos or microchips.
The hearing will take place in the Montgomery County Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Court at 10:30 a.m. on Friday. Constable Holifield said he would prefer those interested in claiming their animals fax or send documents/information to his office in advance to allow for preparation of the documents prior to going before the judge and so they can confirm the dog is among those seized.
Holifield said he hopes the dogs are awarded to an organization that has the ability to care for animals of this breed and will help them to get adopted and find forever homes.