More than 530 animals were seized from a Louisa County property in what has been described as the largest animal hoarder case in the county’s history.
“The conditions inside are pretty deplorable. That’s the best word I can use to describe it,” Louisa County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Mark Stanton said at the scene on Nov. 29.
Clara Collier, 77, has been charged with five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and more charges may be pending, Major Donald Lowe said Monday.
It all started when the Louisa County Animal Control Division received a call about goats in the roadway on West Old Mountain Road.
“Our ACO officer came out, located the goats and went to try to bring them back in and found multitudes of animals that were actually in distress or actually deceased already,” Stanton said. “We started an investigation from there.”
Eleven animals were dead when officers arrived. Three goats and two guinea pigs, Stanton said, had to be euthanized, due to the nature and extent of their injuries and illness.
“It’s not something we like to do, but there was no choice in the matter in this one,” Stanton said.
Emus, horses, goats, sheep, guinea pigs, cats, rabbits, chickens, ducks, turkeys, doves and a pheasant are among the hundreds of animals that were removed from the farm over a two-day period last week. They are being cared for by volunteers with Louisa Community Animal Response Team.
The sheriff’s office, animal control officers and dozens of volunteers from CART rendered aid to each of the animals and moved them to a temporary shelter at the Louisa Firemen’s Fairgrounds.
Law enforcement found animals inside a home, outdoors, in barns, coops and in a variety of other buildings and enclosures located on the property.
Stanton said the cows and some sheep were left at Collier’s property, because the state veterinarian determined that they were being adequately cared for.
“We’ve been checking on their welfare,” he said.
For Collier’s family, the situation during the past week has been tough to deal with.
Her son, Cecil Colna, disagrees that the animals were neglected, but did say that a couple of the cages had not been cleaned out that day before officers arrived.
“The pictures they were showing on TV were the worst possible ones. There were just a handful that she hadn’t cleaned,” he said. “[The animals] were all fat and healthy—every one of them. Some might have been overweight; some were pleasantly plump. None was hungry or thirsty.”
Many of the animals that found their way to the farm were hurt, damaged or dropped off by other people who no longer wanted to care for them, Colna said.
“Momma’s never turned away nobody, no animal or creature or person,” he said. “She’s one of the warmest, nicest people you’ll ever meet in your life.”
Volunteers who have been caring for the animals have remarked that the animals are showing improvement as the week moves along.
Stanton praised the tremendous work of animal response team volunteers who have been working for the past week to care for the creatures.
“I can’t say enough good things about the CART team,” he said. “They brought all their equipment, their cages, their personnel, their vet and the whole nine yards. This is what they do.”
This is the first time that Stanton has personally worked alongside the animal response team.
“It was a huge amount of work,” he said. “They were godsends. Logistically, it was a huge undertaking.”
Donnie Embrey, president of CART, couldn’t be happier with the response from the community and others around the state, and the hundreds of volunteers who have given their time to assist.
Nikki Brook, a small animal veterinarian from Fairfax, was at the fairgrounds late Tuesday morning to drop a truck and trailer load of supplies that she and her team had collected.
“We heard there was a need,” she said. “We’ve got a lot of resources.”
People lined up at the fairgrounds over the weekend to bring much-needed supplies to help the crews care for the animals, and many offered to help. Many have also kindly purchased food and drinks for the volunteers as they deal with the tremendous workload.
Embrey said he fields between 50 and 60 calls per day from people who want to find out how they can help.
What the team needs help with most at this time, Embrey said, is assistance during the daytime on weekdays to help with the daily care of the animals.
They are looking for people who are 18 or older with clean criminal records. Young people who are 16 and 17 can help as long as they have parental permission. For more information, call (540) 223-1196.
“We appreciate the support we’ve gotten from the community,” he said.
In the meantime, the sheriff’s office continues to actively investigate the case. Stanton said none of the animals can be adopted until a judge makes a decision.
A forfeiture hearing is scheduled for 11 a.m. on Dec. 7. Collier will also be in court that morning on the five criminal charges she is facing.