Case Snapshot
Case ID: 17979
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: cat, dog (non pit-bull), rabbit (pet)
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Judge(s): Tom Reynolds

For more information about the Interactive Animal Cruelty Maps, see the map notes.

Friday, May 27, 2011

County: Jackson

Disposition: Convicted

» Seth Arthur Maher
» Kimberly Jan Maher

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

A couple is in jail after nearly 300 animals were seized in and around a home in Jackson County in what police call one of the biggest animal cruelty cases ever.

Kimberly and Seth Maher both were charged with 63 counts of animal cruelty and are in jail.

Jackson County Sheriff's deputies served the warrant Friday, finding dogs, cattle and farm animals underfed and living in filthy conditions.

"Deplorable conditions in this place, not only in the residence, but the animals around," Chief Deputy Tony Boggs said. "Deceased animals, burned animals, malnourished animals and just about every size, breed and kind were up there."

It all began with a complaint to the animal shelter that there were six starved horses on the property.

When the humane officer came to check it out, she found hundreds of other animals living in filthy conditions.

The malnourished horses led to the search and seizure at a place where the horses were nowhere to be found.

Chickens, turkeys and geese could be seen running in the mud among dead animals and without food.

There wasn't water for cattle, goats and rabbits by the dozens, but there was an overwhelming smell.

"Trying to knock on the front door we discovered a dead rabbit in a box at our feet," Boggs said. "It's horrible to see the folks that can treat animals this way -- no matter what the conditions, to be able to allow animals to die, to be starved."

Behind the home, a burning pile where police say dogs were dumped and burned to death.

Cages also were found with other animals including kittens, rats and feces found all over the inside of the home.

When one of the owners, Seth Maher, arrived home, he questioned deputies saying all of the animals were in good health.

Seth and his wife, Kimberly Maher have faced animal cruelty charges before, in the state of Virginia.

"You know we can't be letting animals be treated this way," Boggs said.

The Mahers are under arrest, accused of hoarding and abuse in a case of cruelty that could leave helpless animals on the losing end.

It's still unclear on an exact number of animals on the Maher's property. A humane officer will keep most of them on the property to feed and care for them, which will be at the owners' expense.

Members of local organizations in Jackson County are providing additional food and cleaning supplies to care for those animals.

Case Updates

A Jackson County couple arrested last month on dozens of charges of animal cruelty entered guilty pleas last week.

Police charged Seth Maher, 72, and his wife Kimberly, 43, each with 65 counts of animal cruelty after a search of their Lockhart Fork Home turned up hundreds of animals living in what authorities described as deplorable conditions.

Humane officers had been investigating the Mahers for months in an attempt to build up enough evidence to authorize a search of their property and seizure of animals in neglected conditions.

When authorities finally conducted that search late last month, they initially found 72 fowl, 24 rabbits, seven cattle, two llamas, one alpaca, 17 goats, eight dogs, four caged rats and nine cats on the property without food.

There were also several dead animals spread across the property, including some in a burn pile.

Additional searches of the Mahers' property on later days turned up more animals. In all, authorities rounded up 214 animals.

In separate hearings last week in Jackson Magistrate Court, the Mahers each were allowed to plead guilty to two counts of animal cruelty; the remaining charges were dismissed.

Magistrate Tom Reynolds sentenced the two to one year of probation and ordered them to pay restitution to the county animal shelter in the case.

Jackson County Humane Officer Cindy Katris said the shelter has spent about $13,000 so far on veterinary costs and fees for housing the animals since the Mahers were arrested.

"I'm grateful that almost all of the animals made it," Katris said, "But they were parasitic and lice-infested."

The animal shelter has been working with the private group Animal Rights Fur-ever, also known as ARF, in caring for and preparing many of the smaller animals for adoption.

Katris and Jackson County Sheriff Michael Bright credited the private group with helping county officials manage caring for the large number of animals.

"They've just been a tremendous help," Bright said. "I just don't have the manpower to do it and take care of (the animals). We just wouldn't have been able to do it."

While ARF is working on adopting the smaller animals, Bright said officials will deal with the larger animals separately.

"The largest animals - like the cattle, the alpacas and llamas - we've made the decision that instead of adopting them out for basically nothing, we're going to take them to the livestock market and sell them and try to cover the cost of caring for them," Bright said.

While the Mahers won't be spending any further time behind bars, Bright said that by pleading guilty, the couple will not be able to own any animals in the state for a period of five years.

"They can't even own a goldfish," Bright said.

The Mahers had pleaded guilty to separate animal cruelty charges in Virginia in 2007, but any penalties or animal ownership prohibitions stemming from those counts didn't carry over when the couple moved to West Virginia.

Now, Bright said, should the Mahers be caught with any animals, police can immediately arrest them and take the animals from their possession.

"The big advantage is, you don't have to wait and build a case and get a bunch of probable cause to get a search warrant to take the animals because they're just not allowed," he said.
Source: - Jun 13, 2011
Update posted on Jun 12, 2011 - 11:52PM 


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