Refuge operator faces 10 animal cruelty charges

National agency plans to move animals

          Tom Sochia, left, and Peggy Worth, spring break volunteers with Camp Victory, work together to remove one of the many cats that were housed inside the back of a truck on Wednesday, March 18 2010. The cats will be transported to the Harrison County Farm.

HARRISON COUNTY

The director of the South Mississippi Animal Rescue Team and Refuge faces 10 counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals after a raid at her no-kill shelter by Harrison County Animal Control.

An arraignment will be in about a month, said Harrison County prosecutor Herman Cox. Each count can carry jail time of up to 60 days and a $500 fine, he said. Crowle could have faced a charge for each of the animals authorities found Tuesday on the property — 205 dogs, 75 cats, five goats, a pony and a chicken, he said.

Crowle surrendered the animals to the Sheriff’s Department and the Humane Society of South Mississippi in exchange for release from jail on her own recognizance.

Jode’ Braxton-Hignight, development and PR director for HSSM, expected the cats to be moved Wednesday to the Harrison County Farm, which is operated by the Sheriff’s Department. She was not sure when the other animals would be transported.

Braxton-Hignight said Crowle had good intentions, but the mass of animals became too overwhelming.

“She’s been wonderful, working with us. I think we all have the animals’ welfare at heart,” she said.

Representatives from American Humane are on their way to evaluate the animals and the national agency plans to transport the animals to other states for adoption, she said.

Media representatives touring the property Wednesday saw dozens of dogs, tails wagging, standing in mud and feces in small cages. Some cages held up to three dogs and a water dish. Just as many dogs were found in 12-foot-by-12-foot runs.

While there is no running water on the property, three 100-gallon plastic tanks were seen nearby. Crowle’s son, Colt Billingsly, said they filled the tanks each day from water collected with permission from a nearby truck stop.

A thick-coated white pony, in a pen with five goats and a rooster, paced on hooves so long they curved back up behind its feet.

Crowle said the animals were only in the smaller crates while they were reconstructing the runs, which she said were taken down within the last 10 days as they moved from one side of the property to the other. They had been at the previous location for about two years, she said.

She explained the pony’s hooves were twice as long when it was left with them, and they have gradually been cutting them down so it can walk.

Billingsly said they had talked to no-kill shelters in north Mississippi and Louisiana that were willing to take the animals.

“We want to make sure none of them get euthanized,” Crowle said.

By DONNA MELTON – dmelton@sunherald.com
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