LAURENS, SC (FOX Carolina) - The Laurens County Sheriff's Office said after checking on the conditions of animals at a home in Gray Court July 16, hundreds of animals were seized by animal control.
According to the Sheriff's Office, animal control went to Hope Road to check on the condition of the horses around 2 p.m. When they got there, deputies saw multiple malnourished horses and several with severely overgrown hooves and teeth in poor condition.
In total, deputies said more than 400 animals were found on the property, including 12 horses, 30 dogs, approximately 356 chickens, 4 hogs, 3 piglets and 8 rabbits. The hogs were underweight, many roosters were tethered to the ground by leashes and almost all of the animals had no access to water.
Sherri Atwood and her husband have lived across the street from Hope Road for nearly 16 years, and know many of the people in the area.
"We saw pictures of the horse and one of the hogs, or pigs, and they were just sad. I just can't imagine anyone doing that to animals. I really can't comment on the rest of them, but knowing that they weren't taken care of that just hurts my heart," she said.
Deputies also said that investigators found items believed to be apart of a cockfighting operation.
Two residents, Robert Milton Kellett III and Tina Messer Hurley, were taken into custody and charged with the following:
- Possession of a Stolen Vehicle (Vehicle stolen out of Simpsonville located on scene)
- Receiving Stolen Goods (License plate stolen out of Spartanburg located on scene)
- - Trafficking in Meth
- 19 counts of Ill Treatment of Animals, Torture
- 1 count of Ill Treatment of Animals, Overworking
The Sheriff's Office said Kellett is also being charged with criminal conspiracy for his involvement with cockfighting.
A third resident, Jeffrey Justice Dale Williams, is currently in the custody of Spartanburg County and will be charged with 19 counts of ill treatment of torturing animals, one count of ill treatment of overworking animals and criminal conspiracy, according to Animal Control.
Laurens County deputies also said that Heidi Tenille Mathes and Jacky Dean Yopp, Jr. of Enoree were also arrested and charged with distribution of meth.
"We knew something was going on, of course we didn't know what, it wasn't out in the open. But we had traffic, there's cars up and down Hope Road all hours of the day and night," said Atwood.
The Charleston Animal Society says that the incident is the largest animal cruelty bust in state history.
"Many of these dogs were malnourished, skinny, flee infested, worm infested and as we found out many of them have really horrible teeth, not just dirty but teeth that need to be removed. So they'll have to go through all of that and then get spayed and neutered and microchipped before they can be placed for adoption," said Charleston Animal Society VP of Operations and Strategy Aldwin Roman.
23 dogs were transported to the Charleston Animal Society for emergency medical care, according to the group.
Laurens County Sheriff Don Reynolds shared his thoughts on the incident in a statement.
"Unfortunately, this county is overrun with this type of activity and locations just like this. The only way to move Laurens County forward is through the combined efforts of Building Codes and the court system. We cannot clean this county up without the cooperation of all."