LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - Over 30 animals were seized from a property in Vernon Parish after the sheriff’s office said they received reports of nearly 10 dead animals on a Leesville couple’s property.
“In my 12-year career here at the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s office, this is the largest that I’ve seen that we’ve actually had to step in and remove this amount of animals from the farm;” Detective David Vance with the Vernon Parish Sheriff’s Office, said, “At that point in time, six dead horses and mules, the two dead dogs, and the little one that was down in the front yard."
According to the sheriff’s office, over a dozen were experiencing malnutrition.
“There was no food other than the resident’s owners had killed a pig and threw it inside the dog pen for the dogs to consume as food," Vance said. "There was no other dog food found on the property. The day we executed the search warrant, the pig carcass had been removed and two dead ducks had been put in for the dogs to consume.”
Vance said additionally, there was little food for the horses and mules and most of the property’s grass had been eaten to the root.
While investigating, they made sure to rule out the possibility that these horses and mules were diseased.
“They come back Coggins free, so we knew they didn’t have Coggins. Dr. Brandon had given us a preliminary results of his blood work on the small horse—there was no disease. It was all malnutrition,” he said.
The suspects, Steven Jones and Holly Dowden, were arrested for aggravated cruelty to animals, but have since been released on bond.
“The dogs, out of the 16 that was removed from the residence, I want to say it was nine that the owners relinquished all rights to," Vance said. "They asked the shelter to hold five because they want to try and pick those five back up, but that’s depending on their court case also.”
The couple is still in possession of some animals that were healthy at the time of the search warrant. We were told the sheriff’s office and animal control will continue to check on them.
Since the animals were seized, one horse has died and the other horses and mules have been sent to a group that will nurse them back to health and get them adopted.