Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19065
Classification: Hoarding, Burning - Fire or Fireworks
Animal: cat, dog (non pit-bull), bird (pet)
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Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012

County: Salem

Disposition: Alleged
Case Images: 1 files available

Alleged: Brenda Sharon Rhodes

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

More than 20 animals, most living in cages, burned to death here after a fire engulfed the horse trailer that served as their makeshift home, authorities said.

It appears to be a tragic ending to an animal hoarding case.

According to New Jersey State Police Lt. Stephen Jones, 12 cats, five dogs and three birds perished in the blaze on a farm off New Road in a rural section of the township. The fire was first reported at 4:40 p.m. on Tuesday in Pedricktown, N.J., Oldmans Township.

The cause remains under investigation, according to Jones, but unofficial reports are that a propane heater being used to provide warmth to the animals could have been the cause.

Brenda Rhodes, 60, who cared for the animals and who has a long history of animal hoarding, has been charged with 20 counts of animal cruelty in the case, according to Jones.

Rhodes was being held Wednesday in the Salem County Correctional Facility in Mannington Township on $10,000 bail on the charges and on outstanding warrants, authorities said.

Rhodes' last known address was Vineland, but state police said she was considered homeless and had apparently had been living in the trailer with the animals.

The scene after the fire was sickening.

The cages that housed the animals had been pulled from the trailer by firefighters. The metal cages were bent and twisted from the heat of the fire.

Two large dogs, their coats charred black, lay dead with their blood-red entrails protruding from their bodies.

The property is not owned by Rhodes. There are also horses and goats owned by Rhodes on the property, also reportedly owned by Rhodes.

Among the birds that perished were said to be two macaws, large tropical birds.

Jones said the case remains under investigation by Trooper Erik Ariz at the state police's Woodstown Station.

There had been people aware of the hoarding situation that had sought to help the animals.

Janis Barry, founder of The Society to Protect Animals, said on Wednesday that she called various agencies to try and intervene.

"I knew this was not proper shelter," Barry said. "I called PETA, the state SPCA, animal control, state police, I called Oldmans Township, the health department. I called everybody. I was on the telephone for about three days to find out how to stop her. I reported it to everybody that I could think of."

State SPCA Spokesman Matt Stanton investigated the property and the condition of the animals in October.

According to Stanton, Rhodes was working with the SPCA and would give up some animals.

"We don't consider her a hoarder. She was borderline. Hoarders don't give up their animals. She was giving up her animals," Stanton said. "We took some rabbits out of there and other animals. That is not saying that she had too many animals on the trailer."

Stanton said when they were investigating in October, they were investigating from an animal cruelty angle.

According to Stanton, the animals were in good shape, looked healthy.

"From our perspective, the state police have the lead right now. They have talked to us about the animal cruelty charges. At this point, it's all the state police," Stanton said. "We do animal cruelty, we show up. We worked with her for a long time. When we were there in October, if we saw something was wrong, we would have definitely done something, but we had no case - they were in good condition."

In September 2010, the Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rescued a golden Labrador retriever from her care in a Vineland home where she lived. The SPCA also discovered she had 50 other animals in the home, including chickens, cats, dogs, goats and pigs.

In 2008, animal control officials confiscated 36 cats from the same home.

In April 2007, Rhodes received third-degree burns when a house she rented in Alloway Township caught on fire. In that fire at 349 Commissioners Pike, nine cats, five dogs, and numerous birds and other small animals - either hamsters or guinea pigs - being kept in the house by Rhodes perished in the fire.


Case Updates

Volunteers involved with animal rescue on Friday reached out to save livestock being kept by an alleged animal hoarder at a remote farm here where a fire killed 20 of her pets, most of them trapped in cages, earlier in the week.

Brenda Rhodes, 60, was charged by New Jersey State Police with animal cruelty after a fire raced through a horse trailer that Rhodes had used as a makeshift home for a variety of animals, including cats, dogs and exotic birds.

Rhodes herself, who police said was listed as homeless, was believed to have lived in the horse trailer along with the dead animals.
At the farm, which wasn't owned by Rhodes, she kept other livestock in an open field.

Representatives from Okey Doke Ranch, located in Clarksboro, rescued a pony and four goats that were left on the property.

The ranch is currently waiting for the veterinarian to check out two of the three horses that were also left behind, a spokesman said.

The third horse, a 14-year-old thoroughbred mare named Tossy, appeared to be thin and was being taken from the Oldmans farm by its previous owner.

According to Lisa Perozzi, owner of a horse farm and tack shop who is not connected with the Rhodes case, a horse ideally needs 8 to 10 pounds of grain a day. Perozzi said the only way a horse can keep warm is with adequate hay.

Rhodes was charged with 20 counts of animal cruelty in this case after fire ripped through the horse trailer and killed the animals late Tuesday afternoon.

In the fire, 12 cats, five dogs and three birds perished in the blaze in the farm off New Road here.

It is believed a propane heater being used to provide warmth for the animals may have ignited materials in the trailer. All the animals, most kept in cages, died.

Rhodes remained in the Salem County Correctional Facility in Mannington Township on $10,000 bail on the charges and on outstanding warrants on Friday afternoon, authorities said.

The property where the fire took place belongs to Mark Crelin. Crelin was reached by telephone Friday, but declined to comment on the incident.

Volunteers advocating animal rescue contacted the township, officials, agencies and organizations to try and intervene prior to the fire including Janis Barry, founder of The Society to Protect Animals.

On Oct. 17, Oldmans Township Zoning Officer Melinda Taylor sent out a Notice of Violation to Crelin regarding his "tenant" Rhodes and her living arrangement.

According to the notice, Crelin had 10 days to comply and take care of the situation.

The notice also stated that the township would follow up on the situation.

According to Taylor, on Oct. 26, Crelin met with Taylor and said that he gave Rhodes until Oct. 28 to leave the property.

Taylor said Crelin would allow the horses to stay, but Rhodes and the rest of her pets had to leave.

According to Taylor, three township employees went out to the property on Nov. 9 after the township heard Rhodes had not left.

"Brenda Rhodes was at the farm when we visited," Taylor said. "She stated she was not living in the trailer and was staying with a friend. The friend (Rhodes said) dropped Brenda off every morning on the way to her job and picked her back up, with the dogs, every night," Taylor, adding because Crelin responded within the 10 days, charges were not pressed.

"The township was concerned about squatting violations, knowing that animal welfare was already on her case about the condition of the animals," Taylor said.

The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Animal Control Officer Ned Shimp were investigating the case.

Rhodes was an alleged animal hoarder with a history.

Before she moved to the farm on New Road here, she is believed to have lived in Salem City, after she left Vineland where she came under the scrutiny of the SPCA there.

In September 2010, the Cumberland County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals rescued a golden Labrador retriever from Rhodes' care in a Vineland home where she resided.

The NJSPCA also discovered she had 50 other animals living with her including a pig. The pig was also rescued by Okey Doke Ranch.

In 2008, animal control officials confiscated 36 cats from the same location.

In April 2007, she received third-degree burns after the house she rented in Alloway Township caught on fire.

Nine cats, five dogs and numerous birds and other small animals including either hamsters or guinea pigs died in the fire.

In addition to the animal cruelty charges, Rhodes has outstanding warrants for failure to appear charges for $600 from Pennsville and $200 from Carneys Point.
Source: nj.com - Jan 6, 2012
Update posted on Jan 6, 2012 - 11:10PM 

References

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