Animal neglect case

By Megan R. Harrell
Star Staff
mharrell@starhq.com

   By the time local veterinarians were notified yesterday, there was little they could do to save a neglected cow on the property of 252 Rasnick Hollow Road. The cow was one of four found starving to death Monday afternoon. Several goats, chickens, and one horse were also found to be living in poor conditions at the property.
   According to Colleen Stout with Carter County Animal Rescue, Donna and Ruth Adcox, renters of the property, were violating the law simply by having animals in their possession.
   "They are under court order to not own any animals for the next five years," Stout said. "In May of 2001 we took charges of animal neglect out on them. A sentence of unsupervised probation was handed down last March."
   When the Carter County Animal Rescue officers and the Sheriff's Department arrived at the muddy enclosure, the cow was extremely weak from lack of access to food. The starving cow received medication intravenously, but did not make it through the night.
   No additional charges have been officially filed against the Adcoxs, who initially denied ownership of the livestock. Stout expects the Carter County Sheriff's Department to file charges of neglect and animal cruelty against the owners in the near future.
   Neighbors stated they had attempted to notify authorities several months ago when they first suspected neglect at the property. Rusty Rumley owns 93 acres adjoining the property and said he left messages with Carter County Animal Rescue about the poor conditions the cows were living in.
   "Their cows were always tearing down the fence to get into my pasture to eat," Rumley said. "I called about six months ago and got a recording and never did get a call back."
   Stout said animal rescue had received four calls on the neglect case. The office has records of calls made in July, August and November. After the last phone call from neighbors, the police launched an investigation.
   Stout attributes the amount of elapsed time between the initial phone call and intervention to regulations within animal rescue departments. "By law the humane society has no rights when it comes to domestic livestock, but when the situation started to worsen we stepped in," Stout said.
   The surviving animals have been fostered out to a concerned neighbor who has been brining hay and feed to the cows. He removed the goats, horse, and one cow from the property Tuesday morning. The neighbor has committed to provide for the animals until the case is settled in court.
   Recently, there have been several cases of animal abuse and neglect reported in the Tri-Cities. However, the apparent epidemic of animal cruelty is not a new phenomena. Stout, who works with cases of animal abuse daily, said the issue is just starting to gain public awareness, and it is not isolated to this region.
   "It is a problem everywhere not just here. I just don't think it is brought to people's attention until lately," Stout said. "It is more of a problem than people realize."
   There are several contributing factors to the abuse and neglect of animals. Many people, according to Stout, simply do not have the resources or finances to properly care for animals. "People get animals when they are little, and they are adorable when they are kittens, puppies, or calves, but they grow up, and it costs more to feed and take care of them," Stout said.
   Stout encouraged pet owners to recognize their limitations when providing for animals. She noted there are several organizations designed to care for animals, and that it is kinder to take a pet to the local shelter than to allow it to suffer by starving to death.
   Some members of the community have voiced confusion over where to report cases of animal abuse. The Carter County Animal Rescue responds to all cases of neglect or abuse in the county, while the Elizabethton Police Department is responsible for stray animals within its jurisdiction.
   Denise Reneau, the dispatcher for animal rescue, fields calls within the county at her home then notifies the appropriate officer. She said an investigator assesses the situations to see if the calls are warranted. "The investigators issue citations and come back within a couple of days to see whether or not they have come into compliance," Reneau said.