Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19139
Classification: Hoarding
Animal: cat
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Tuesday, Jan 3, 2012

County: Galveston

Charges: Felony CTA
Disposition: Alleged

Alleged:
» Wydell Dixon
» Kimberly Jane Paskert

Case Updates: 1 update(s) available

Wydell Dixon, owner of the Whiskerville Animal Sanctuary Inc. where nearly 200 cats were seized and 27 were found dead Jan. 3, said she would like to have her cats back.

But after hours of testimony Tuesday, Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Sonny James ruled the 184 cats seized from Whiskerville will stay with the Galveston County Animal Resource Center.

Dixon's attorney, R. Scott Shearer, said they would appeal the decision in county court.

"We beg you to please do not return these animals to the care of Wydell Dixon," said Elizabeth Cuchens, the prosecuting attorney with the Galveston County District Attorney's office, in her closing arguments.

While Shearer argued an employee was supposed to be caring for the cats while Dixon was away, Cuchens said Dixon was responsible for the cats at the sanctuary no matter who she had working there.

Texas City Animal Control Officer Amy Snider said she was one of the people at the sanctuary Jan. 3 and she described a harrowing scene inside the building located at 1112 6th street in Texas City.

"It was probably one of the worst things I had ever seen," Snider said.

Looking in the windows, Snider testified she saw matted feces up the windowsills, cats with infected eyes, cats that were skin and bones and deceased cats.

"The smell alone when you walked in the building - the smell of ammonia and the deceased animals - within five minuets, your eyes and nasals were burning," Snider said.

There was food found in the shelter, Snider said, but where the cats couldn't get it.

Texas City Veterinarian Scott Johnson said the scene inside the sanctuary was something he had never seen before.

His clinic treated more than a dozen cats from Whiskerville and he helped remove the dead cats found there.

Johnson said he believed the cats had not eaten for more than just a week and possibly as much as a month or more.

The live cats he saw, Johnson said, were covered in feces, urine and many of them had scalding on their pads from walking in urine.

Dead cats were found throughout the building, said Dana Bohn, a Texas City animal control officer. She said cats were found under beds, in drawers, next to walls, one looking out a window and even some in a freezer and refrigerator.

"They were just everywhere," Bohn said.

Dixon's attorney said everyone could agree there was an absence or lack of a person at the sanctuary to give the cats food and water. But, he argued, it was not Dixon who was responsible but her longtime employee, Kim Paskert.

"If you are going to have a hanging, hang the right person," Shearer said.

Dixon testified the last time she had been at the shelter was in late November. She was away in December to reunite with her estranged family and to help her sister in Brazoria, Dixon said.

The shelter was in Paskert's hands but she was in contact with her daily, Dixon said. She had left the shelter in Paskert's care before and had no reason to suspect anything was wrong, Dixon said.

Paskert was not at the hearing but said earlier this month a volunteer had asked to care for the cats for a week.

Dixon said the cats found in the freezer were ones that had died of old age and were waiting to be cremated. But she broke down crying on the witness stand when she saw pictures of the condition her sanctuary was in the day animal control seized her cats.

Dixon said caring for the cats, which she called her babies, was her passion and she would like a chance to care for them again.

"You don't have the means to take care of these cats anymore, isn't that right?" Cuchens asked.

"If I have community support, I will spend the rest of my life cleaning up after them," Dixon said.

Fellow animal rescue advocates and friends of Dixon testified she was a loving person who would go above and beyond for the animals in her care.

Dixon's husband said he was cleaning the sanctuary and would be ready for cats once more in about a week.

In his closing arguments, Shearer said Dixon is not responsible for the criminal acts of her employee.

"That person lied to her," Shearer said. "To say that my client cruelly treated these animals goes against every fiber in her body."

Nonetheless, James ruled the cats would stay with the state. After the hearing, Shearer said he was not surprised with the outcome but he would be appealing the decision to the county court where the case will go in front of a jury.

Pictures of Whiskerville Animal Sanctuary:
http://galvestondailynews.com/blog/7630


Case Updates

The 184 cats seized from Whiskerville Animal Sanctuary Inc. have been in the state's custody since Jan. 3, but the shelter's founder Wydell Dixon would like to have them back.

Dixon is attempting to appeal last week's ruling that the nearly 200 cats seized from the shelter should stay with county animal control, said Scott Shearer, Dixon's attorney.

But the $105,000 appeal bond being requested by the court is more than she can put up, Shearer said.

A new state law passed during the last legislative session requires the person who has had the animals taken from them to pay the cost of keeping and caring for the animals while the appeal process goes on, he said.

Dixon has until Friday to put up the money, but Shearer said he would be filing an emergency appeal to reduce or waive the requirement. He said he believed the new requirement was unconstitutional.

The seized cats are at the Galveston County Animal Resource Center, the Galveston Island Humane Society and the Houston Humane Society.

Along with the live cats, authorities found 27 dead cats at Whiskerville on Jan. 3. On Jan. 17, Precinct 3 Justice of the Peace Sonny James sided with the Galveston County district attorney's argument that the cats should stay with the county and not go back to Dixon, who also faces four counts of felony cruelty to animal charges, as does her employee Kimberly Paskert.

In last week's hearing, Elizabeth Cuchens, the prosecuting attorney with the Galveston County District Attorney's office, presented the judge with pictures of the inside of the shelter when animal control went in on Jan. 3, including pictures of some of the dead cats.

The Daily News obtained those pictures through the Texas Public Information Act.

At the hearing, animal control officers who entered the building Jan. 3 described it as one of the worst things they'd seen.

"The windows were completely lined with cats, matted feces all up the windowsills, deceased cats," Texas City Animal Control Officer Amy Snider testified.

Dana Bohn, a Texas City animal control officer, testified that dead cats were found under beds, in drawers, next to walls and even one looking out a window.

"They were just everywhere," Bohn said.

At the hearing, Dixon said the last time she had been in the shelter was late November.

She was away in December to reunite with her estranged family and to help her sister in Brazoria, Dixon said.

The shelter was in Paskert's hands, but she was in contact with her daily, Dixon said. She had left the shelter in Paskert's care before and had no reason to suspect anything was wrong, Dixon said.

In closing arguments, Shearer said Dixon is not responsible for the acts of her employee.

"That person lied to her," Shearer said. "To say that my client cruelly treated these animals goes against every fiber in her body."

Shearer then argued the cats would be in better care with Dixon and her no-kill sanctuary than at the county animal facility where some eventually could be euthanized.

Based on the evidence and testimony, James said he would not return the cats to Dixon.

"I'm not saying Ms. Wydell did any of this personally, but she is the overseer of this property and the animals and it is her responsibility," James said at the hearing.

James' ruling was not completely unexpected, Shearer said. But he said he believed a jury would see things differently.

Shearer said he would look into securing a surety bond before Friday so as to appeal James' ruling.

But the price of the appeal bond is going to make it difficult, he said.

"They're just trying to keep me from appealing," Shearer said. "Having the government come take your property and then say 'we'll give you a jury trail if you pay $105,000.' That sounds kind of strange."
Source: galvestondailynews.com - Jan 26, 2012
Update posted on Jan 26, 2012 - 12:47PM 

References

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