Grimes County authorities say they are pursuing 15 charges of misdemeanor animal abuse against a 27-year-old Houston man in a case that first gained attention over social media.
The 15 dogs seized from the Plantersville property last week have now been evaluated by a veterinarian, and investigators say they have concluded that the animals were neglected.
According to Grimes County Sheriff’s Lt. Daniel Wagnon, on Wednesday the dogs’ owner stood before Grimes County Judge Lester Underwood and appealed to have his animals returned. The 15 dogs had been removed from a vacant pine tree lot in Plantersville where they had been chained. Wagnon noted that the owner does not currently live on the property, and the animals are kept there alone. Underwood denied the man his right to reclaim the dogs and ruled that the dogs will remain in the custody of the Houston Humane Society, where they have been receiving medical attention.
“A veterinarian did rule that, in their professional opinion, the dogs had suffered abuse and neglect,” Wagnon said. “The dogs were malnourished, loaded with fleas and are suffering with skin conditions. There were some older injuries that could possibly be related to dog fighting, but, [as stated], those were old.”
The dogs’ plight was first brought to widespread public attention when a video of the animals was posted online Sept. 19.
Initially, the video suggested that as many as 80 dogs were on the property, that dogs’ bodies also were on the property and that dogs were being used for fighting.
Wagnon said the man who uploaded the video later clarified to deputies that the number was not accurate, changing his statement to estimate that less than 20 dogs were on property. Additionally, Wagnon said no animal corpses were found at the scene, and there was no physical evidence that a dog fighting ring currently exists there. Neighbors said they had seen the owner bringing dogs to and from the property, but they were not able to confirm a sighting of actual dog fighting, Wagnon said.
He added that this seizure does not mark the first experience deputies have had with the man. In 2018, a concerned citizen asked law enforcement to check on what was at that time less than 10 dogs being held on the lot.
“Last time the dogs were not this bad off,” Wagnon said. “They were just looking a little thin.”
The lieutenant explained that the sheriff’s office typically tries to educate pet owners upon first contact and often give them a chance to correct the problem if it appears the animals are not in immediate danger. In this month’s case, however, Wagnon said the canines’ conditions was much more serious. He added that several of the 15 dogs, ranging in age from puppies to adults, did not have access to drinking water.
Wagnon said authorities will proceed with charges of Class A misdemeanor animal abuse for each of the 15 dogs, punishable by up to one year in jail per charge and $10,000 in fines per charge. Wagnon anticipates that the suspect will be served a warrant within the next few days.
According to a Monday Facebook post from the Harris County Animal Cruelty Taskforce Page, affiliated with the Houston Humane Society, rescuers are working to help the dogs heal. The previous owner has 21 days to appeal the decision to rehome the animals.