Weatherford Democrat

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May 14, 2012

Shelter had turned away Springtown woman

SPRINGTOWN — A suspect in the animal cruelty investigation involving 58 dogs, including two later euthanized, seized from a Springtown-area home Wednesday is a former animal control officer.

Teresa Weldon, the property owner, was arrested Wednesday on an outstanding warrant from Tarrant County on a theft of property by check charge. Weldon, who was released from the Parker County Jail Thursday and as of Saturday had not been formally charged, faces multiple pending charges of animal cruelty, according to the sheriff’s office.

Weldon was the city of Everman’s full-time animal control officer between February 2009 and June 2010 and was not elegible for rehire when she left, Everman Director of Finance Kathy Renshaw said.

Weldon, associated with non-profit Four Paws and Hooves Animal Rescue, apparently approached the Weatherford-Parker County Animal Shelter looking to transfer some animals to her 501c3 shelter within the last month, according to Interim Animal Control Manager Dustin Deel.

“We denied access to them,” Deel said.

Animal control officers noticed some red flags, including hearing some concerns from other people, Deel said. They had concerns about the quantity of dogs she was requesting and the organization wasn’t forthcoming about where the dogs were going, he said.

Fort Worth reportedly released about 200 dogs to Weldon in the past two years, while Arlington reportedly stopped releasing dogs to her last year after investigating complaints, according to other news reports.

The organization’s website lists the group as located in Lillian in Johnson County.

The Humane Society of North Texas reportedly rescued 20 animals from the group in Johnson County in 2010, according to news reports.

Of the 58 seized, 31 were being held in crates, many stacked on top of each other, in the house, according to the sheriff’s office.

The dogs in the house reportedly did not have food or water and some were living in their own urine and feces.

Several outdoor pens containing puppies were reported filled with animal feces, urine and vomit.

“The conditions were so poor that it created a serious health hazard for the occupants as well,” Investigator John Qualls said. “There was an overwhelming foul odor of dog feces which was detectable from outside the residence. It was extremely unhealthy for both humans and animals.”

A puppy and an adult pit bull mix breed dog were euthanized due to severe neglect and health conditions, according to the sheriff’s office.

A veterinarian reportedly found some of the animals in extremely poor condition with parasites, worms and fleas.

Mary Ann Austin, Weldon’s former landlord, began eviction proceedings in 2011 after issue with dogs on another Springtown-area property.

“She had dogs everywhere, crap everywhere,” Austin said, adding that Weldon lived there with her daughter and a baby.

Austin said she told Weldon it was OK to keep two small dogs and Weldon promised to keep them outside but a neighbor told Austin the house was full of dogs.

When she visited, she found six or seven dogs and Weldon told her she was keeping them overnight and worked with animal control, Austin said. But when she went back the following week, she still had some, according to Austin.

The Democrat was unable to reach Weldon for comment Friday.

The four people living at the house Wednesday are being investigated for child endangerment after Weldon’s 1-year-old grandson was found in a crib that was surrounded by animal waste.

The issue of evaluating non-profit rescues and those looking to foster is something they struggle with day in and day out, Deel said. So many people want advocate for the animals and some are great fosters and rescues while others are hoarders, he said.

Animal control officers go through training to help them do a proper background check, Deel said. For example, if they have someone come in and request five dogs, they may ask who they are using for a veterinarian and see if the vet can recommend that person.

Right now the Weatherford-Parker County Animal Shelter is busy trying to accomodate the remaining 56 dogs until the case goes to court, which could be some time.

They expect to do that by sending some to the Springtown holding facility and finding room for others at other facilities through cooperative agreements, according to Deel.

“Fort Worth has helped us out,” Deel said. They housed some dogs overnight and sent staff to help get things organized for getting the dogs settled.

The county has also assisted by sending trustees to provide additional help.

“We’re really doing the best we can,” Deel said, adding that staff members are thinking outside the box and working hard.

The community can help with the burden placed on the shelter.

“We are always taking donations,” Deel said. They take dog food, cat food, trash bags, bleach, cleaning supplies, kennels and towels.

“We use anything and everything we can get,” Deel said.

Other way area residents can help is to think of the shelter when they are looking to adopt an animal.

“We were near capacity when this happened,” Deel said.

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