One hundred twenty one dogs and more than 60 other animals were rescued from a suspected Jefferson County, Ark., puppy mill after authorities discovered them living in filth and suffering from a lack of basic care.
A search warrant served at the home of James and Tara Best, off Mail Route Road in Jefferson County, resulted in the Sheriff’s office asking for help from national and local groups to remove the 183 animals found in cages and pens without food and water, and to take them to shelters for immediate attention.
A neighbor told KATV-7 that “the Bests are good people with good hearts who pick up strays and take care of them.” However, Lafayette Woods, Jr., a spokesperson with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s office, says the address is listed as Busy B Pets, and he believes, "The evidence will show that animals were actually being sold from this property for profit.”
“We know that this is not a case of a few animals that got out of hand as pets," Major Woods added, "I worked as a veterinary assistant for 6 years, I have seen animals come in that were malnourished, but I have never seen animals and the conditions like this."
When Sheriff's deputies searched the property, they found the animals housed in deplorable living conditions. Numerous dogs were living in an outdoor facility, while others were confined inside trailers parked on the property. Many were living in filth, with their cages covered with feces, and did not have access to clean water or food.
Rescuers also found more than 60 other animals, including 11 exotic birds, 19 chickens, 20 horses and multiple cats, bunnies and turtles on the property. Some of the animals were in need of immediate medical care; others were underweight, suffering from various physical conditions, including serious eye and dental problems, KATV reported.
"The couple will be issued citations, Class A misdemeanor for cruelty to animals,” he said. “But I am confident in saying that, based on the conditions and the animals, those charges will likely be upgraded to aggravated animal cruelty which is a felony."
Neighbors tell KATV they are concerned their missing dogs are being used for breeding at the alleged puppy mill.
Major Woods estimates it will cost $100,000 to temporarily house all the animals at local shelters.
Jefferson County Sheriff's Office called on The Humane Society of the United States, Central Arkansas Rescue Efforts for Animals, The Humane Society of Saline County, Out of the Woods, Red Rover and Sal is Ranch Large Animal Rescue, Inc., to assist in the rescue and removal the animals.
PetSmart Charities is providing food, supplies and toys for the dogs
Sheriff Gerald Robinson said: "Irresponsible breeders fuel the animal overpopulation crisis.” He praised the efforts of the rescue groups and volunteers and said, “These animals will no longer be subjected or forced to live in such deplorable conditions that we consider a ‘sanitary nuisance.'”
The Humane Society stated that Arkansas is one of the most problematic puppy mill states in the country.
Because of a lack of strong animal-protection laws, Arkansas has become a haven for some of the worst puppy-mill operators, according to HSUS, which stated that it plans to work with lawmakers to pursue legislation to change this in 2015.