Warden: Four dogs starved to death

By Jeff Gilliland

January 24, 2014

A Rocky Fork Lake area woman has been charged with four misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty after four dogs that had allegedly starved to death were found on her property.

Theresa Lewis, 32, of 11451 Dundee Drive, was also charged with one misdemeanor count of no dog license. She was arrested Friday and was being held on a $3,000 bond at the Highland County Justice Center pending an 8 a.m. hearing Monday in Hillsboro Municipal Court.

Highland County Dog Warden Cathy Seifer said she received a message Jan. 5 from the Highland County Humane Society saying it had received a call from a concerned neighbor that dogs living at Lewis’ property were in distress. Hafer said she was not on duty that day, but the Humane Society went to the home and found that four dogs had died of starvation.

Seifer went to the residence on Jan. 7, her next day at work, with deputy dog warden Nikki Funston and they discovered that three of the dogs were chained to their doghouses and were dead inside them.

“It was clear that these dogs had starved to death,” Seifer said. “They were all very emaciated. Two appeared to have been dead for a few days and one appeared to have died more recently. Later, it was discovered that a puppy had also died and was found in a Mountain Dew box.

“While we were there several neighbors approached us stating that the owner had moved just before Thanksgiving and had only witnessed the owner or family member of the owner come to check on the dogs twice in a six- to seven-week period.

“…It is clearly upsetting that these neighbors wanted to get involved after the dogs had died, but none had even tried to contact anyone for help while these dogs were alive.”

Seifer said that when she asked the neighbors why they hadn’t contacted anyone, one neighbor said she had just got out of prison and didn’t want to cause problems. Seifer said another neighbor said his wife had had conflicts with Lewis and they didn’t want to get involved.

“What a said situation that these dogs had to die of starvation because no one wanted to get involved…,” Seifer said.

If Highland County residents see any animals being neglected, Seifer said they should call the Highland County Sheriff’s Office, which will in turn contact the dog warden’s office. If the neglect involves animals other than dogs, the Humane Society should be contacted.

Seifer said all complaints will be checked out.

She said animal owners should take extra precaution to make sure their pets have ample shelter, food and water in extreme cold conditions.

“I take my job very seriously and if you cannot give a dog, or any animal, the attention and all the things that come along with owning one, please do not get that animal just to say you have one,” Seifer said. “The animals are the ones that suffer and it will not be tolerated if I have anything to do with it.”

Jeff Gilliland may be reached at 937-247-2737 or on Twitter @13gillilandj.