Saturday, August 3, 2013

Animal-filled house condemned

TENNESSEE -- Residents of an animal-filled home condemned as "totally unfit" for humans or animals kept dogs in outdoor pens for the Shelbyville-Bedford County Humane Association, Shelbyville police said Thursday.

But a Humane Association representative said John and Sabrina Crowder, the home's owners, are highly respected by area animal rescue groups for "fostering" -- providing temporary homes -- for dogs.

"At least 10 dogs and six cats" were being kept inside with "possibly 10 more dogs" in pens and cages outside the home on Shelbyville Mills Road at the West Jackson Street intersection, officer Mitchell Warren said.

"We had 10 dogs, including nine foster puppies, at the house," Kimberly Warren of the SBCHA said.

The outside dogs were to be removed by the SBCHA on Thursday night, but Warren said this morning she was told not to by city manager Jay Johnson.

"At this point this is a complaint being handled by the city under the city code of ordinances," Johnson said this morning. "The city is directing the investigation."

City takes animals
"We will cooperate fully with the Humane Association after we have fully assessed the situation," Johnson said. "That is happening this morning."

City animal control workers will take the dogs and cats from inside and outside the house to the city facility where they will be inventoried and checked, Johnson said.

The animals will be released to the Humane Association by this afternoon at the earliest and no later than Monday, Johnson said.

He added that the city's actions has nothing to do with discussion earlier this week concerning proposed limits on the number of animals being kept at homes.

Those dogs were to have been placed on the Rescue Waggin -- which takes dogs to northern cities for adoption -- today if two sets of shots could be given in time, Kimberly Warren of the SBCHA said.

Skin irritation 
"The dogs that were outside had skin irritations to the point that they were chewing on their own flesh," Mitchell Warren said.

Kimberly Warren said she was told by Sabrina Crowder only one dog was chewing itself.

"The dog has a skin allergy and is being treated," she said. "We had 10 dogs, including nine foster puppies, at the house."

Only the dogs kept outside the home were being sheltered for the SBCHA, said Warren, who added she had not been told of the investigation until contacted by the T-G.

"She said she cleans and mops the pens every morning." Kimberly Warren said.

Moving out
Sabrina Crowder declined comment when the T-G visited her home at the city-specified 4 p.m. deadline to vacate. She and other family members were loading animals into vehicles as the outside dogs watched from large cages in shaded areas of the side and back yards. Food and water were clearly visible.

The deadline was extended after a codes officer arrived, Kimberly Warren said.

The house was condemned Thursday afternoon by Shelbyville's city codes department and cannot be legally reoccupied until cleaning.

City codes enforcer David Langford inspected the home earlier Thursday, accompanied by police Sgt. Michael Davis and Mitchell Warren, after officials obtained an administrative inspection warrant. The warrant followed a meeting involving Johnson, animal control officers, police and the building and codes department.

"He assessed the situation and made photos," Mitchell Warren said. "Based on what he saw, he condemned the home for human habitation until the property is cleaned up and re-inspected."

"They told them they had 20 minutes to get out," Kimberly Warren, who is not related to the officer, said. "Sabrina told them she couldn't do it that fast so they told them they had to be out at 4:00 due to the smell in the flooring.

"The house was condemned only because there's some old wood-style flooring in three rooms and they (city) want something easier to clean up containing polyurethane."

"He said he can't remove the animals from the property," Mitchell Warren said of Lankford.

"We don't have anything to do with what they do with their own animals inside the home," Kimberly Warren said.

[This is ridiculous. You hand animals over to people who are supposed to foster and care for them and you don't bother to check on the living conditions of where they're going. You don't bother to check on the other animals already in the household?

Kimberly Warren

"We don't have anything to do with what they do with their own animals inside the home," Kimberly Warren said. -- What kind of statement is that?! This is how situations like these are created. Someone has a "stellar" reputation so they blindly hand over animals to people who clearly are not in a situation to care for their own animals, let alone foster additional animals.]

Overpowering smell
Mitchell Warren and two Rutherford County deputies first visited the home Wednesday afternoon seeking a man on whom they wanted to serve a warrant in an unrelated case. Maj. Jan Phillips and Davis were also present, according to Warren's written report.

They were granted permission by John Crowder to search inside for the suspect -- but never made it past the first floor.

The stench was so overpowering, according to Mitchell Warren, that he and a Rutherford County deputy quickly became ill.

"Within a matter of minutes we had to exit the residence," Warren said.

"People who aren't used to animal smells don't realize..." Kimberly Warren said.

City inspection
Kimberly Warren said Sabrina Crowder told her Shelbyville's animal control officer inspected the property in June. Records indicate animal control has visited the property several times to investigate complaints of barking dogs.

Several board members of the SBCHA visited the property Thursday afternoon after the call from the T-G and some have been there before, according to Warren.

"I didn't go there myself but other people here vouched for the Crowders," Warren said. "These people have fostered for other organizations. They're well-known in the community as rescue people."

More dogs are kept in foster homes than the SBCHA shelter, especially puppies, she said.

"We're trying to move most to fosters," Warren said. "Puppies thrive better in a foster."

Fostering dogs
Warren praised the Crowders for their efforts.

"They're the only fosters in the city. All the others live in the county," she said. "There's some good stuff they do. They went on Christmas Eve and picked up a dog so skinny they couldn't tell she was pregnant and she had 10 puppies the next day. "

Those dogs were eventually sent away on the Rescue Waggin, Warren said.

(Shelbyville Times-Gazette - August 2, 2013)