Real estate agent finds starving animals in vacant rural house

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

ESSEX, Mo. -- A real estate agent inspecting a recently foreclosed-on house in rural Stoddard County discovered four starving dogs and two emaciated cats inside.

Tricia Carroll of Poplar Bluff, Mo., found the animals Monday locked in different rooms of the house along County Road 732 southeast of Essex.

The animals were "skin and bones," said Carroll, who will join Lanette Baker, director of the Sikeston Area Humane Society, today to rescue the animals and document their living conditions.

After discovering the animals, Carroll said she bought food and water in Sikeston and returned to feed them and open the house to air it out. "They went nuts. I had to put the food in separate places because the first one to it wouldn't let the others eat," she said.

All the animals were friendly, if a little scared, Carroll said. "I never felt threatened by any of them."

The dogs were two beagles and two other small dogs, she said. One of the beagles appears to have given birth recently but there was no sign of the puppies, she said.

Police agencies in Stoddard County rebuffed her calls for help, Carroll said, but she didn't quit. She called Baker at the Sikeston animal shelter Tuesday. Carroll is furious with the law enforcement agencies for declining aid.

"I found out today that they are supposed to do something," she said. "I explained to them that these animals were left in there intentionally, but they said they are not equipped to handle animals and can't do anything about it."

Exactly how long the house has been empty is unclear, Carroll said. The mortgage company sent her to the home unsure whether it was vacant, she said. "I am probably the first person on the scene to see if it is vacant or not," she said.

Baker spent much of Tuesday organizing the rescue that will take place today. Stoddard County Prosecuting Attorney Briney Welborn promised that someone from the sheriff's department or another agency would be on hand to document the case in an effort to find who abandoned the animals, she said.

Volunteers will join the effort to bring the animals back. A relative of a member of the Humane Society board of directors will take the two cats, she said, but the dogs need "foster parents" who can keep them until any criminal case arising from the animal neglect can be prosecuted.

The dogs will be taken to the Humane Society shelter in Sikeston but must be housed elsewhere because the shelter is already full, Baker said.

The animals will also need medical care to deal with any issues related to their starvation, Baker said.

Anyone who wants to offer help for the animals can call the Sikeston Area Humane Society at (573) 471-4801.

335-6611, extension 126

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