Case Snapshot
Case ID: 19196
Classification: Hoarding
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Person(s) in animal care
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Attorneys/Judges
Defense(s): Thomas Pilcher
Judge(s): Michele Thomason


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Thursday, Jan 26, 2012

County: Baldwin

Charges: Misdemeanor, Felony CTA
Disposition: Alleged
Case Images: 5 files available

Alleged:
» Sharon Dueitt
» Roberta Dueitt

Case Updates: 3 update(s) available

Summerdale Alabama Police received a tip Thursday about abandoned animals that led them to the Purple Hearted Puppies rescue organization and boarding facility on County Road 36 in Summerdale. Police forced down the front door, where they found puppies inside that hadn't had food or water for over a week.

A news video on WKRG.com shows the three puppies scrambling to drink water that police and rescuers gave them. They are the same three puppies that Purple Hearted Puppies owner, Sharon Dueitt, posted on her Facebook wall and wrote that somebody had dropped off at the shelter on January 17th.

Initial reports are that dozens of animals have been found dead at the facility, which housed close to 200 animals, including cats, dogs, goats, horses and chickens. Police and rescue workers said the animals they found hadn't been fed or watered in nearly two weeks, although in some instances, cases of food were set outside of kennels where animals could see them and not reach them.

Purple Hearted Puppies is also a boarding facility, and Baldwin County Humane Society and Summerdale police were calling pet owners Thursday night to pick up their pets. Not all of them were alive. Some dogs that had been housed together had resorted to eating kennel mates that had died of dehydration or starvation.

Sonja Presley with the Baldwin County Humane Society told reporters that the owners of the shelter were out of town, and the people left in charge of the facility never showed up.

Despite this, the owner of Purple Hearted Puppies, Sharon Dueitt, had been posting to her personal facebook page all week from the Robertsdale, Loxley and Summerdale areas, a ten mile radius. She makes no mention of being out of town. Dueitt posted on the 21st that she was taking care of family business and would be posting animals for adoption on Monday the 23rd, yet on that day she indicated that she was sick with the stomach flu.

Police told reporters that of the animals found at the facility, two horses had to be put down because they were too far gone.

Authorities say so far, Sharon Dueitt and her mother, Roberta, have been charged with 20 counts of animal cruelty each, with dozens of other charges pending.

BARC and police need your help. There are dozens of dogs and cats that need foster homes and adoptive homes. Police are asking local animal-lovers interested in helping to be at the Purple Hearted Puppies Kennel in Summerdale Friday morning between 8 and 9 am. BARC can be reached at 1-800-547-6518 or 251-928-44585, but they are normally closed on Fridays.

Purple Hearted Puppies Kennel is located at 21118 County Road 36 near the intersection of County Road 83 in Summerdale.


Case Updates

"It's going to tick a lot of people off," said Summerdale Police Chief Eddie Ingram after learning Roberta and Sharon Dueitt were granted what many consider a low bond for what happened at their animal shelter in Summerdale.

Thomas Pilcher is their defense attorney. "Basically for the felony charge it's going to be a bond of 25 hundred dollars secured through a bonding company and they have to have a bonding company to post that bond. The misdemeanor charge is 500 dollars."

The bond was granted under the condition that the Dueitt's have no contact with any animals. A point reiterated in their bond hearing by District Judge Michele Thomason. "Under no circumstance are you to have any animal of any type. Not a bird, not a squirrel, not any. Am I making myself clear?"

Prosecutors want the Dueitt's assets available for restitution.

"To think that these women are going to be out on the street among us today is really sort of incomprehensible."

Jeanne Birkenhauer was one of dozens of volunteers who helped rescue survivors of Purple Hearted Puppies Rescue. "I'm shocked. I think it's appalling. I understand the system and the way the process has to work and I respect that at the same time things were so terrible, the conditions were so deplorable it's hard to describe in words what we witnessed out there."

Summerdale police chief Eddie Ingram was also surprised by the low bond amount but says there is still a long way to go in this case. "You're looking at possibly 80 to 100 felonies by the time a grand jury is through with this thing so this case is just at the beginning right now."

Summerdale police did serve a search warrant on the Dueitt's Robertsdale home earlier today to recover computer equipment.

The Dueitt's next court appearance is scheduled for February 24th.
Source: wkrg.com - Feb 3, 2012
Update posted on Feb 4, 2012 - 3:27PM 
On Thursday, police executed a search warrant at the Purple Hearted Puppies property in Summerdale.

"We're specifically serving a search warrant and specifically, we're looking for tax documents, financial records for Purple Hearted Puppies, the business itself," said Officer Trent Dennis with the Summerdale Police Dept.

This is the first time they've been able to search through a home on the property.

Police said filing cabinets had been cleaned out, and they believe someone pulled the records from the property after the arrests.

Police also said they are looking for anymore dead carcasses after getting several tips about animal cruelty, prior to the discovery, last week.

Police are building up their case against Roberta and Sharon Dueitt, and trying to prove intent.

"They reported themselves as a no-kill shelter and a tax free business; and in fact, we haven't been able to verify that they are a non profit," Dennis said.

"Basically what were learning in our investigation is it appears they were selling the high-dollar dogs out of here and the ones they couldn't get rid of we're left to fend for themselves," said Summerdale Police Chief Frankie Ingram.

Police said they believe those that couldn't survive ended up underground.

Detailed tips led authorities to find at least 25 animals buried in just one spot.

"In one hole there were like four or five, in another hole there was a couple and we can probably spend a week out here digging but what we wanted to do was make our information credible and show that this has been a continuing pattern," said Chief Ingram.

Charges against the Dueitt women have now been upgraded to felonies and police said the two must turn themselves in no later than 10 a.m. Friday.

While police searched the property for evidence, some good news came about for the surviving animals that were rescued from the Purple Hearted Puppies.

The Baldwin County Humane Society (BARC!) Board President Christine Sherwin was informed by Assistant District Attorney Robert Nichols that Sharon and Roberta Dueitt have signed over permanent legal custody of the 58 dogs and 51 cats who were seized January 26 at Purple Hearted Puppies shelter in Summerdale, and January 27 at the Dueitt's residence in Robertsdale.

"The release of these pets into our custody marks a milestone in taking these animals from crisis to care" Sherwin said. "We appreciate the outpouring of support we have received from Baldwin and Mobile counties and from across the nation."

Now the animals can be spayed or neutered, have a complete set of vaccinations and be tested and treated for heart worms. Previously, only emergency veterinary care could be administered to preserve evidence in the mass animal cruelty.

Deneen Balistere, BARC! Dog Adoption Coordinator said, "We are asking the public to be patient as we determine the health conditions of each of the pets rescued. Our primary concern is that each of these cats and dogs eventually be placed in loving homes. The trauma they have suffered can only be alleviated by love and continuing care."

Individuals that surrendered or boarded pets at the Purple Hearted Puppies facilities should email a picture and complete description including breed, age, gender, color of coat, weight, spay/neutered and microchip number to Info@BaldwinHumane.org . Owners will be required to provide proof of ownership through veterinarian records.

Baldwin County District Attorney cautions the public about potential scammers for donations and adoptions.
Source: fox10tv.com - Feb 2, 2012
Update posted on Feb 2, 2012 - 10:41PM 
As veterinarians, animal shelter staffers and police tended dogs at the scene where more than 200 neglected dogs, cats, horses and poultry were found, officials received word that another two dozen untended animals had been found at the owners' home in Robertsdale.

Roberta Dueitt and her daughter, Sharon Dueitt, were arrested Thursday and charged with 20 counts of cruelty to animals, Summerdale Police Chief Eddie Ingram said. The two were released from the Foley city jail on $10,000 bail. Ingram said police are looking for a third suspect and other charges could be filed against the Dueitts.

Twenty dogs and two cats were found dead after a Summerdale police officer arrived at Purple Hearted Puppies on Thursday night in response to a neighbor's complaint. Inside police found dogs and cats left without food in cages for weeks, Sonja Presley, executive director of the Baldwin County Humane Society, said today at the site.

About 50 cats were found in cages inside the house. Two of the cats were dead. Two horses found on the property could not be saved and were put to death, Presley said.

"It's voluminous and it's taking all the rescue groups and veterinary clinics to collaborate. No one has ever seen this magnitude of animal cruelty in Baldwin County."

Some of the dog carcasses had been eaten by other starving dogs, Presley said.

"It was survival," she said. "They cannibalized the other dogs."

Police found cases of pet food and other supplies at the site.

"This place just got too large for these two ladies to handle and they just abandoned it," Ingram said.

Gina Farmer, a technician with Dykes Veterinary Clinic in Foley, led an emaciated female dog to her car and held a shivering Yorkie wrapped in a blanket.

"It's really, really bad in there," she said coming out of the barn where the dogs had been kept. "It's awful. I've never seen anything like it."

Bonnie Carlson held a folder containing photos of her cat, Baxter. She asked Presley and other volunteers if they had seen the gray and white cat. She said she had left the 4-year-old Persian at the site about three months ago, trying to find a home for the cat.

"When I heard the news, I couldn't believe it," she said. "They said cruelty to animals in Summerdale and I thought, 'Oh no. Please don't let it be.' But it was."

Postings on al.com in response to a story on the arrests and Sharon Dueitt's Facebook page said the family did not realize the animals were being neglected.

"First off I didn't know the animals was in that bad shape. I had people working for me, people who I thought I could trust and who called me daily telling me he and his wife been taking care of the animals. I had no reason to doubt him and his wife," the posted statement said. "I didn't run off. I was sick, so was my mother with the stomach flu. My worker told me not to worry he take care of everything for me to rest and take care off my mother who is already in bad health."

Today, officers checking the Dueitt's home on Adams Acres Road in Robertsdale found 24 more neglected animals, Robertsdale police said.

In the two-story home or in the yard, officers found 10 cats, seven dogs and seven goats, according to police. Three of the cats, newborn kittens, had died before being found. Today, a veterinarian and technicians could be seen treating other animals.

Neighbor Evelyn Lowery said she had last seen someone at the house on Jan. 19. She said she had reported animal problems to the police, but did not realize the animals were being neglected.

"We called about the smell from the goats and about the dogs barking at times, but we had no idea this was going on," she said.

About 40 people were at the Summerdale site this morning. Many brought donations of food, blankets and other pet supplies for the animals. Some had pet carriers in their vehicles and asked about adopting some of the dogs and cats.

Presley said all of the animals will have to be examined before being sent to outside homes.

She said people wanting to foster animals or donate to help the pets found at the site can go to the Humane Society website, www.BaldwinHumane.org.
Source: al.com - Jan 27, 2012
Update posted on Jan 27, 2012 - 9:19PM 

References

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