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Judge awards SPCA with former shelter operators animals

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SPCA of Texas Awarded Custody of 
65 Dogs, 10 Cats and Kittens 
Seized from Fannin County Property

LEONARD- Late this afternoon[ Friday, May 28]  in Leonard, Fannin County Justice of the Peace, Pct. 2 Alan Hale awarded custody of 65 dogs and 10 cats and kittens seized under the authority of the Fannin County Sheriff's Department on Friday, May 21, 2010 from a property in Leonard, TX to the SPCA of Texas.

Judge Hale also awarded restitution in the amount of $19,475.85 to the SPCA of Texas. However, the SPCA of Texas does not expect to actually receive any of this money to help offset costs.

"I believe Mr. Vonda started out with good intentions," said Judge Hale.

 "But at this point he is in over his head and cannot care for these animals properly."

Testimony was given by witnesses for the defense that the group could have met state requirements for proper animal care under the Texas Health and Safety Code if they had sufficient financial means to do so. 

During the hearing, Yolanda Duke, a witness for the defense who identified herself as a professional dog groomer and trainer but not a veterinarian, stated that at one point she performed a procedure on a cat whose tail had been severely injured to remove a portion of the cat's tail.

In the professional opinion of the SPCA of Texas' Veterinarian who examined all of the animals, they were not receiving the basic care expected to be given in a shelter environment.

"I'm happy with the decision because we'll know where the animals are and that they will be receiving proper care," said Ann Barnes, Sr. Vice President of Operations for the SPCA of Texas. 

Texas state statute says that the owner has a right to appeal this court's decision within the next ten days. If no appeal is filed during that time, then the SPCA of Texas will begin the process of individually evaluating the animals for potential adoption or placement on a case by case basis. 

To download photos from the property, please paste the following link into a browser: http://www.spca.org/FanninCounty052110.

Many of the dogs were being cruelly confined on tethers outdoors and inside a residence on the property. The residence was unlivable and the people staying on the property were living in tents. About half of the dogs were underweight and several dogs had untreated open wounds on their ears. One third of the dogs had eye discharge and one dog was missing an ear. The cats and kittens were emaciated and the kittens were in need of immediate veterinary care. Some of the cats were loose in the house and others were in crates in the garage. One crate in the garage held the mother cat and her kittens and the other crate held a cat without food, water or a litter box.

Additionally, one cat, several kittens, and what looked like other dogs and cats had been burned in two of the several burn piles on the property. 

The location of the seizure was the residence of James "Soaring Eagle" Vonda, the manager of Domestic Animal Rescue Shelter Service (DARESS). The group previously had a contract with the city of Ferris to handle the city's adoptions. Two months ago, there were aligations of animal cruelty at the shelter concerning the animals that  Mr. Vonda was responsible for. Before the SPCA of Texas could even initiate an investigation, Mr. Vonda claimed to have moved the dogs to Oklahoma. Last Friday, Mr. Vonda admitted that at least 40 of the dogs found on the property were moved from the Ferris city animal shelter.

The SPCA of Texas received an anonymous tip the morning of Friday, May 21 regarding the animals' conditions. An SPCA of Texas investigator visited the property with the Leonard Police Department and the Fannin County Sheriff's Department and found the animals in severely cruel conditions. The Fannin County Sheriff's Department concurred with the SPCA of Texas that it was in the animals' best interest to obtain a warrant and remove the animals immediately.   

SPCA of Texas vehicles transported the animals to the Perry Animal Care Center in McKinney, where they were examined by medical staff and cared for until the custody hearing.

To help the SPCA of Texas fund future efforts like this and to support the SPCA of Texas' other programs and services, please visit www.spca.org/helptheanimals. To learn more about the SPCA of Texas, please visit our website at www.spca.org


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