NEVADA -- Eighteen dogs seized by Clark County Animal Control will spend the holidays at the shelter while the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department decides whether to file criminal charges against the woman who owned them.
She's a rescuer who crossed the line into hoarding and is now under investigation for animal cruelty.
Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears continues her coverage of this rescue gone wrong.
As tears well up in her eyes, Teri Askew says, "These dogs are like my babies, you know? My children."
So why, then, would she allow some of them to get so underweight?
"There were several of them that were too thin. I understand. Yeah. I accept that."
The case of Askew's 18 dogs had Judge Rob Bare speaking primarily from the heart in a hearing Thursday morning in Clark County District Court.
"They say every dog has its day. I guess this is my day to have the dogs," Judge Bare told the courtroom.
Askew has been under investigation since Oct. 21 when Las Vegas police and Animal Control seized and impounded all of her dogs.
"They're claiming that the dogs were emaciated and somebody actually said starving to death and at death's door. Really?! That was not the case," said Askew.
She admits being over the legal limit for animals. The county allows three. She had 18.
"These are rescues. They're not normal dogs."
Askew said she fed them a raw diet and knows some weren't getting enough to eat.
But in a prior interview, she told Contact 13, "None of them were deprived of food. It was a matter of balancing. I had too many dogs, period."
In court Thursday, she told Judge Bare all the dogs had special needs and some had severe medical issues.
"The day that the dogs were seized, I wasn't given an opportunity to explain the conditions of the dogs."
It looks like she'll get that chance after Judge Bare extended a temporary restraining order to protect the dogs and keep them in the county's care while Las Vegas police continues to pursue possible charges of felony cruelty.
After her dogs were seized, Teri had to pay a $2,700 care bond to the Animal Foundation.
But that was only enough for half the dogs and four of them ended up on the shelter's transfer list. If they were adopted out or euthanized, it would've been like destroying evidence in an ongoing case.
"If there were a criminal prosecution, I don't know what the nature of the charges could really be, but maybe the dogs themselves are the best evidence," said Judge Bare in court.
Many of Askew's dogs do appear healthy. And she believes some are getting sick and even injured in the county's care.
"My biggest concern is if any dogs deteriorate, which they are. They're losing weight in the shelter. They're not used to eating kibble. They're not used to being in a stressful environment."
She admits to some neglect, but even the judge said it looks like she had good intentions and got in too deep.
"I understand my predicament and how I must look to the public right now," Askew said after court. "I do. I understand. However, never did I ever do anything intentionally to harm these dogs. Never."
Las Vegas police and Animal Control can't talk about this because it's an open investigation.
Askew has not been criminally charged.
Her civil case will be back in court on Jan. 5 and Contact 13 will be following it closely.
(KTNV - Dec 8, 2016)