HARMONY — Dozens of allegedly neglected animals were taken from a borough residence last week. Now, the owner of the property could face charges.
Butler County Animal Response Team, Frankie's Friends Cat Rescue in New Kensington and Hog Heaven Rescue Farm in Cochranton all played a part in the rescue of three goats, six donkeys, 10 rabbits and 11 sheep on Jan. 26.
After hearing about the alleged animal neglect from a concerned individual about two weeks ago, Debbie Urmann, a humane officer with Frankie's Friends, said she investigated the call along with Regina Martin, president of Hog Heaven.
They found unsafe conditions for the animals, Urmann said, including metal sheds that had collapsed and debris that could injure the animals. The sheep had not been shorn and were covered in urine, feces and dirt, she said.
“The fleece had moss growing on it and the donkey's hooves were beyond anything that either one of us had seen before,” she said.
She gave the animals' owner two weeks to make mandatory corrections, she said, but it was “quite apparent the situation was beyond what she could handle.”
“In the best interest of the animals, I was able to get her to surrender them to us,” she said.
Urmann said if the woman hadn't surrendered the animals, she would have gone back with a warrant to take them. She said she also will be filing charges against the woman for neglecting her animals for what appeared to be more than a decade.
Dr. Becky Morrow, a veterinarian and founder of Frankie's Friends, said she performed surgery on one of the rescued rabbits Thursday.
“The majority of the animals are at Hog Heaven currently being treated by the vet up there,” she said. “Sheep are getting sheared and skin evaluations, hooves are being fixed. We're doing surgery on one of the rabbits for wounds and getting them all spayed and neutered once they put on some weight.”
Morrow said all of the animals were thin.
Janice Lawniczak, Butler County humane officer, said most animal rescues begin with a phone call when someone sees an animal they believe to be neglected, such as those that seem thin or are left outside in bad weather.
“With the anti-tethering law, or Libre's Law, when it's below 32 (degrees) or above 90 (degrees), pets are not allowed to be tied outside longer than 30 minutes,” Lawniczak said.
Lawniczak, who investigates cases of potential animal abuse or neglect, said she receives most of her calls during the hottest or coldest months, but that she does not seize animals.
“I'm not a rescuer,” she said. “If the humane society has room, they will take them, or we look for fosters until the court date. Once an animal is seized, they're considered evidence because they're property of the owner.”
The animals rescued from Harmony won't be able to stay in their foster homes forever, Morrow said, and Hog Heaven will most likely put some of the larger animals that are being sheltered there up for adoption.
The rabbits, she said, also would be up for adoption.
“They're really cute,” she said. “Then again, I haven't seen a rabbit I didn't think was cute.”
Morrow said those interested in adopting the rabbits could contact Frankie's Friends. Donations to either Frankie's Friends or Hog Heaven are requested due to the needs of a large animal rescue.
“We're in desperate need of donations because we're just a small cat rescue,” Urmann said. “We're trying to help these animals.”
Donations can be made on Frankie's Friends' website or Facebook page and on Hog Heaven's website.