Anderson County Sheriff's deputies seized 96 neglected animals from the property of Michael and Francis Dear in Anderson County.
“This case and the reasons for the neglect is baffling to us,” said Sheriff Greg Taylor. “Of course in this type of heat, it could only take an animal around three days to die from lack of water.”
According to Taylor, a report was made to the Sheriff’s Office by a concerned individual on Sept. 12.
Captain Ginger Lively investigated the reported that evening and found 21 dead horses and 10 dead cows as well as nearly 100 head of neglected livestock on a 200 acre property in the Elkhart/Slocum area.
On Friday, Sept. 13, after receiving the necessary warrants, deputies with the ACSO seized 80 cows, 11 horses, four goats and a mule.
With evidence of cruel treatment, the Sheriff's Office established probable cause to seize the animals.
“Form what we can tell, it looks like these animals died and are suffering from lack of water,” said Taylor. “We are not exactly sure at how long the neglect has been going on.
“The property is sectioned off and while some livestock had access to water, some did not.”
A hearing has been set for 9:30 a.m. in Judge Gary Thomas’ court on Monday.
The owner was notified of a hearing that will determine the disposition of the livestock.
Michael Dear is an attorney in Anderson County who specializes in LLCs. He and his wife also operate a livestock business on the property, known as Dear Ranch, raising and selling cattle, mules and goats.
Taylor said that Michael and his wife formerly lived on the property the animals were located on, but now live a few miles away.
When contacted by the Herald-Press for comment, Francis stated, “Thank you so much for contacting us. Under advice from our lawyers and due to an upcoming hearing, we are unable to make a statement.”
The Dears are being represented by Charlie Nichols or Dan Scarborough.
According to Nichols, this is not a case of animal neglect or mistreatment, but a mistake.
“What you will find out through the hearing is, the Dears had hired a contractor to build some fences on the property where the animals were,” said Nichols. “The contractor sent work crews out to work on the property and the crew members did not follow the directions given by the Dears and closed a gate that was to be left open in order for some of the livestock to have access to water.”
Nichols said the fence contractor would be testifying on behalf of the Dears.
The confiscated livestock is being cared for by local veterinarians in an undisclosed location. Taylor reported that some of the seized animals have since died.
The Sheriff's Office is continuing to investigate whether state criminal charges of cruelty to livestock will be brought against the horses' owner.
While this is not the worst case of neglect ever reported in the county, Taylor said it ranks in the top five.
Animals are protected by federal, state, and local laws. Investigations are conducted on all cases of suspected animal cruelty reported to the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.
This case will be filed with the Anderson County District Attorney, Allyson Mitchell’s office. It will be up to her discretion as to whether or not she will prosecute it or not.
Sheriff Greg Taylor encourages anyone with knowledge of an abused, neglected, or tortured animal to report it to the Sheriff's Office.