Deputy describes ammonia ridden home after animal seizure

Caldwell County animals seized (SPCA of Texas photo)
Caldwell County animals seized (SPCA of Texas photo)

UHLAND, Texas (KXAN) — Animal Control Deputy Hannah Garrett can only describe the scene inside a Caldwell County home in one phrase: “It was absolutely unbelievable.”

Garrett first got a call from a neighbor on Misty Drive about a dog nearby eating a chicken. “Based on just the amount of dogs that I saw and their living conditions, I knew this was something that couldn’t be corrected within a reasonable amount of time,” Garrett said.

After digging a bit deeper, what the deputy found inside was not only unbelievable—the waste and ammonia levels were so high—it was poisonous. Officials said the ammonia levels in the home due to urine were overpowering at 29 parts per million–any range higher than 12 ppm can cause health issues in humans. “We’ve got several deputies that have been around awhile and have seen some things and even they had to leave the residence due to the severity of the ammonia,” Garrett described.

Animals taken from the property include:

  • 150 feeder mice and rats
  • 86 snakes
  • 56 guinea pigs
  • 28 dogs
  • 26 rabbits
  • 15 goats
  • 9 doves
  • 8 skinks
  • 7 ferrets
  • 7 pigs
  • 6 pigeons
  • 4 geckos/lizards
  • 4 gerbils
  • 4 turtles
  • 3 bearded dragons
  • 2 ducks
  • 2 miniature pigs
  • 2 tortoises
  • 1 tarantula
  • 1 turkey

She discovered 430 animals living under one roof, some of the animals were already dead. Unhealthy living conditions prompted Caldwell County Sheriffs to remove the animals from a property on Feb. 20.

University of Texas officials confirmed the two people living in the home worked at the Animal Resource Center on campus. Both have been placed on administrative leave, pending investigation.

Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law says the scene was one of the worst cases he’s seen in more than 20 years in law enforcement.

“Our animal control officer found many different levels of what we would call cruelty to animals. Not being cared for, food, water, different arrays of health,” said Sheriff Law. “And decided the quickest thing we could do is go ahead and file for search and seizure of those animals so we can start caring for them first. It’s bad.”

Whether it was a case of hoarding or breeding to sell, deputies still can’t answer why this happened. But the sheriff has an idea.

“My perception? Mental stability. You’ve got this many animals in one spot, it would be hard for a pet store chain to keep track of 430 animals,” he said.

No charges against the couple have been filed yet but the sheriff says they are likely.

Neighbors tell KXAN it’s been an ongoing issue for months, and they’re relieved authorities stepped in to remove the animals.

Until new homes are found for the animals, the Dallas SPCA will take care of them. The couple is expected at a custody hearing to be held on Monday, Feb. 27.

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