FORT RECOVERY — Deputies seized close to 20 dogs and found between 150 to 200 animals spread across a rural Mercer County property on Wednesday.
While executing a search warrant at 972 State Route 49, Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey said deputies discovered the dogs living in poor conditions throughout the property. The animals were found living in several out-buildings and campers, as well as the main residence on the property.
Officials have not released the names of the individuals involved in the case pending the filing of charges. According to the Mercer County auditor’s website, the property is owned by Robert L. Briner.
“We got an anonymous complaint about a bunch of dogs that were not being care for,” Grey told The Evening Leader as to what sparked the investigation. “The investigation started on Aug. 21 and it led us to a search warrant. We had checked the area and did some investigative work before so that we could obtain the warrant ... We knew there were a lot of dogs there but it’s kind of hard to count just a bunch of dogs running around. However, we knew there would be 100 to 200 dogs.”
Grey said the residents of the property cooperated with deputies and agreed to surrender 19 dogs that were deemed to be severely ill. Those dogs, which included seven puppies and a mother, were removed from the property. However, eight of the dogs were deemed too ill to survive and were euthanized by a veterinarian who assisted at the scene. Grey said he believed more of the dogs could be euthanized in the coming days.
“They kept the dogs there and I think with the intent of taking care of them,” Grey said, noting he did not believe the animals were kept as part of a breeding operation. “They just couldn’t afford to take care of that many dogs.”
Grey said his office received a similar complaint in 2010 regarding dogs at the property. During that incident, Grey said deputies worked with the residents to rectify the situation.
“The dogs kind of took over the house,” Grey said.
“Several lived in the house and some lived in campers and other buildings. Some of them, for lack of a better term, were almost wild. They were living out there and had to fend for themselves for food. They weren’t friendly toward people because so many of them were not around people. The dogs had more living space in the home than the people who lived there.”
Some of the dogs bit people who responded to the residence. Grey said those animals are being quarantined for 10 days. The case will now be forwarded to the Mercer County Prosecuting Attorney for review.
“As far as the dogs go, (Municipal Court) Judge (James) Scheer will have to make a decision whether to order us to take the dogs and deliver them to pounds to be put up for adoption,” Grey said, noting the residents had a kennel license. “The dogs are owned by the people who live there so we don’t have a legal right to just take them. To be honest, I don’t know what for sure the legal process is. The judge will have to look at the law.”
Deputies were assisted at the scene by Mercer County Dog Warden Tom Powell, Randolph County SPCA and the Fort Recovery Veterinarian Clinic. The investigation is continuing. If the judge issues a seizure order, Grey said that could lead to another set of challenges for his office.
“Now it becomes what do we do,” Grey said. “We have been contacting other animal shelters and pounds to make arrangements if we do end up taking them. We are trying to locate places that would be willing to take them and then our next course of action would be to transport them. We are trying to work out those details right now in the event the judge orders us to take them.”