With Winter Storm Bearing Down, Sheriff’s Raid Saves Abandoned Animals

February 3, 2022Noelle Wiehe
Winter Storm

A member of the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Cruelty Task Force carries out a pup from the property in Newton County Feb. 1 where over 60 animals were rescued from a neglectful situation. Humane Society of Missouri photo.

Hours before a winter storm began burying Missouri in snow, Newton County sheriff’s deputies raided a mobile home south of Sarcoxie to save dozens of animals.

When the deputies served the warrant Tuesday, Feb. 1, at the Aspen Road address, they found 57 hungry and thirsty dogs and cats left to fend for themselves, authorities said. The animals’ primary shelter was the shell of a burned mobile home.

“The rest was just crates and kennels,” Newton County Sheriff Chris Jennings told Coffee or Die Magazine. “There was no livable place there for anybody to stay.”

animal rescue
Deputies say they found these dogs locked in crates open to the elements at an abandoned property south of Sarcoxie, Missouri, Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, just hours before a winter storm blew through. Newton County Sheriff’s Office photo.

Jennings suspects a blaze ran through the home in January. The owner apparently abandoned the property days before deputies arrived, leaving many of the animals locked in crates and exposed to the elements. The site is located near the northern edge of Newton County, roughly 22 miles east of Joplin.

The Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Cruelty Task Force officials announced they’d transported the animals to the organization’s headquarters in the Macklind section of St Louis. They pledged the creatures would be evaluated by veterinarians and provided emergency treatment.

A winter storm warning is in effect for Newton County, with plunging temperatures and up to six inches of snow expected to fall by Thursday evening.

Winter Storm
A member of the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Cruelty Task Force removes a dog from an abandoned property in Newton County Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. Photo courtesy of the Humane Society of Missouri.

The Tuesday raid wasn’t the first time deputies had visited the property. On Friday, they’d stopped by and reported no water or electricity there.

The Diamond Fire Department took water to the animals, and the Joplin Humane Society provided food for the weekend.

The sheriff’s lead investigator, Lt. Andy Pike, served the warrant at the site south of Sarcoxie Tuesday.

“We did not see any food on the property,” Pike told Coffee or Die. “I don’t really know how he was watering them because the pump wouldn’t run without any electricity.”

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Pike said it appeared as if nearly all the animals were adults. He recalled seeing only one puppy Tuesday. A deputy is fostering the dog while civil proceedings continue.

“He paid for medical care out of his own pocket for the dog,” Sheriff Jennings added.

Jennings told Coffee or Die that two dogs died shortly after deputies began trying to care for them. Investigators also discovered multiple animal carcasses believed to be those of foxes that aren’t found in Missouri, plus the bodies of domestic cats.

Necropsies are slated to determine what killed the animals, Pike said.

Winter Storm
A member of the Humane Society of Missouri’s Animal Cruelty Task Force removes a dog from an abandoned property in Newton County Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022. Photo courtesy of the Humane Society of Missouri.

No criminal charges have been filed in the case. Jennings told Coffee or Die he suspected the property holder had been attempting to start a kennel, but he “obviously didn’t have all the proper housing and one thing or another he needed for the animals.”

“We know for a fact he left for a considerable amount of time without the animals being taken care of,” he added.

Jennings told Coffee or Die a hearing was slated for March 1 at the Newton County Courthouse in Neosho to determine whether the animals would be returned to the property owner.

Under Missouri law, the Humane Society can’t adopt out the dogs and cats unless a judge removes them from the control of their lawful owner.

Read Next: Death in a Minnesota Blizzard: Border Patrol, Royal Mounties Battle Smugglers

Noelle Wiehe
Noelle Wiehe

Noelle is a former staff writer for Coffee or Die through a fellowship from Military Veterans in Journalism. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and interned with the US Army Cadet Command. Noelle also worked as a civilian journalist covering several units, including the 75th Ranger Regiment on Fort Benning, before she joined the military as a public affairs specialist.

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