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Thursday, Dec 1, 2011County: Putnam
Alleged: Meredith McGraw
A local woman involved in animal rescue has been charged with 10 counts of misdemeanor cruelty after Putnam County Deputies removed several animals with obvious untreated medical issues.
Sheriff's Lt. Tracey Bowen and Sgt. Scott Pitocchelli, along with Animal Control officers, reported to Meredith McGraw's home Dec. 1 to check out complaints of sick and neglected animals.
McGraw, 59, of 180 Wards Chapel Road, runs a private rescue shelter, Companion Pet Rescue Inc., licensed through the Department of Agriculture. Bowen said she found 62 animals in 15 kennel areas, 10 of which had visible medical conditions that needed immediate medical attention.
"The complaint was that there were a lot of sickly, injured and some dogs that were emaciated on the property," Bowen said. "When we arrived we found several with health issues that you could just see that needed attention."
Bowen had the animals removed and taken to a veterinarian for evaluation.
Among the problems found were mange, tumors, one animal that had a ruptured hind leg ligament that was said to be a very painful condition, one suffering from a snake fight with organ failure and a variety of cases of worms.
"Some of the worms cases were the kind that can be passed to humans (hookworms)," Bowen said. "One of the other cases of worms, the whip-worms, can infect the soil and can take years to get rid of. If you don't treat all the dogs, they are all going to get it."
It took more than a month to get medical evaluations and go through the evaluations, looking at all the evidence before Bowen finally filed charges.
"Based on the evaluation of the vet, we issued 10 warrants for her arrest on animal cruelty charges," Bowen said. "These animals were not in confined spaces or cages and this is not the worst case of neglect that I have ever seen. However, it is still neglect when an animal is left without appropriate medical treatment."
Bowen said McGraw told her she would not be at home on Dec. 1 when deputies and animal control officers arrived at her home to inspect the animals. In actuality, Bowen said McGraw was inside the home and did not want to come out.
"She said she was taking a bunch of dogs up north for an adoption day," Bowen said.
According to Bowen, McGraw started her business with all the best intentions, going to animal shelters in the Middle-Georgia area and adopting adult dogs to save them from being euthanized. But, somewhere along the line, Things started to get out of hand.
McGraw told Bowen that some of the animals she rescued had medical conditions before she adopted them.
"I understand... but if she cannot attend to their medical needs, it's not going to do the animals any good," she said.
Bowen and Animal Control Director Christine Tillman agreed that McGraw started her mission to save dogs from death out of a love for animals.
"I really do believe she started with good intentions, but things got beyond what she could handle," Bowen said. "Being an animal lover myself, I don't like the idea of euthanizing animals but at the same time, if they are living somewhere and they are sick, then they are still suffering."
And complaints have been coming in for common issues like barking and the occasional loose dog since McGraw's business started in 2007.
Animal Control officials said they had been dealing with ordinance violations with McGraw dating back to that year with more serious complaints appearing in 2009.
Although she was called to what Bowen calls "Doggy Court" for county ordinance violations, no previous animal cruelty or neglect charges had been filed. Bowen said her office has also had dealings with McGraw, but nothing of a criminal nature involving animals until these charges.
McGraw still has possession of 52 animals on her property, and according to Animal Control, eight of the 10 taken into custody have to be held at the shelter because McGraw refuses to relinquish custody of them.
One of the animals was put down because of a medical phenomenon that developed while in the care of the Animal Shelter and through no fault of caretakers, deputies said.
"She will either have to give them up or a judge will have to release them before we can adopt them out," Tillman said. "It's hard because, we have people asking about them and we have to just say I'm sorry we can't let them go right now."
Bowen said because the other animals do not appear to have any ailments, the Sheriff's Office cannot remove any of the other animals.
Bowen said one of the conditions of McGraw's $10,100 bond was that she not acquire any new animals until her case is heard. If convicted on the charges, Bowen said each charge carries a 12-month sentence and a fine.
- msgr.com - Feb 2, 2012
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