An Alabama woman faces several counts of animal cruelty after 29 horses were found dead on her property, and 46 dogs needed to be rescued, according to authorities.
On Oct. 1, the Colbert County Sheriff’s Office said it established probable cause with the help of the county animal control division and district attorney, to arrest 63-year-old Debra Jane Catledge on several counts of animal cruelty.
Corey Speegle, the director of animal services at the Colbert County Animal Shelter, told Fox News Digital he received reports back in June of dead horses on Catledge’s property, which triggered an investigation.
His investigation not only found her Catledge’s property was locked down, preventing anyone from entering without a search warrant, but that she was also charged with 15 counts of animal cruelty in 2013 after more than 120 small dogs were discovered living in cages outside of her property.
On Sept. 25, Speegle received another report that triggered a search warrant after he presented it to both the sheriff’s office and district attorney’s office.
The warrant was executed last Friday with deputies from the sheriff’s office, and they entered the property.
Speegle said when they pulled up, they could hear dogs barking, and they were living in elevated kennels with dogs, four or five deep.
The conditions, he said, were bad as the hair on the majority of the dogs was matted, and they were living in urine and feces.
Some of the dogs were so matted that it was difficult to find the eyes. The dogs were also covered in bugs and cockroaches.
“This was a puppy mill,” he said.
Speegle and the deputies also found several horses, one of which went down right in front of them and had to be helped back up.
A dead horse was found in a pond, and 28 horse carcasses were also discovered on the property.
On the day the warrant was executed, Speegle said 27 living horses living in poor conditions were removed from the property. He returned with deputies with a second search warrant and found several more horses, a mule and a donkey.
The first search warrant resulted in Catledge being charged with 15 counts of animal cruelty for the dogs and a single count of obstructing government operations.
Speegle said the second warrant resulted in two more counts of animal cruelty for the horses and 28 counts of failing to dispose of a carcass properly.
The living animals were all seized from Catledge’s property and brought to the shelter, where volunteers from the community worked to find homes for the rescued animals.
The shelter turned to social media to help get the word out about the animals and their needs.
“We are in DESPERATE need of help for SEVERAL horses from an ongoing cruelty case, in progress,” one post reads. “We need the minimum amount of feed for AT LEAST 5 horses! We also need hay! Tomorrow we will need help from volunteers to come help clean crates for dogs from the same case!! We are literally begging for all the help we can get!”
A few days later, the shelter posted pictures of some of the dogs and horses on its Facebook page.
In the post, shelter officials said, “to say that the last 2 days have been rough is an understatement!”
The post continued, saying they were exhausted, mentally and physically, and beat down, before praising the team and community that stepped up to help.
“We asked for help, and you all came through so much for us,” the post read. “You guys worked your butts off, and we want you to know that it is so appreciated.”
People stepped up on the scene and from afar through donations.
Because of the efforts, the shelter noted, the animals are “getting the life they all deserve.”
All the dogs brought to the shelter were taken in by guardians to care for, and they will remain with the guardians until a court rules on the case.
Speegle also said most of the dogs tested positive for heart worm, ring worm, a giardia from drinking bad water.
Sheriff Eric Balentine shared a picture of Catledge on Facebook, asking for the public’s help in finding her.
“We believe everyone should be held accountable for their actions,” he said. “I feel it is important that this offender see the inside of our corrections facility as soon as possible.”
She was ultimately found, taken into custody, transported to the Colbert County Jail, and later released.