The animal cruelty case against the Dears, an Anderson County couple, has been rescheduled to Friday in the County Court at Law.
The action came after Judge Jeff Doran recused himself from the case, and the defense for the Dears objected to the appointed judge, P.K. Reiter. a retired district Judge from Limestone County.
In civil cases each side gets one such objection. A time for the new hearing had not been set as of Monday afternoon.
No reason for Doran’s recusal or the objection to Reiter were given..
This court case is an appeal to the Sept. 23, ruling in the court of Judge Gary Thomas that found Michael and Francis Dear responsible for cruel treatment of their livestock. It is a “trial de novo,” which means new trial with new evidence and testimony.
The Dears are appealing Judge Thomas’ verdict, the order to pay housing and vet fees for the seized animals, as well as court costs of $20,000, and the ordered auction of all confiscated livestock from the Dear property.
On Sept. 13, the Dears were charged with animal cruelty, after the death of 31 cows and horses from lack of water.
The day before, a strong odor was reported coming from the property. After driving to the location and smelling decomposition, Capt. Ginger Lively, of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, investigated the property, finding dead horses and cattle, and two weak horses.
Lively reported she found 21 dead horses and 10 dead cows on the property; they probably died from dehydration, after getting penned without access to water. The animals were found in various stages of decomposition. Several were at the gates of the property around empty water troughs. One dead cow was found to have died while it struggled to squeeze through a gate.
Chapter 10 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, Section 821, defines cruel treatment "to include tortured, seriously overworked, unreasonably abandoned, unreasonably deprived of necessary food, care, or shelter, cruelly confined, caused to fight with another animal, or subjected to conduct prohibited by Section 21.09, Penal Code.”
Due to her findings, Lively filed and received warrants to seize 97 animals from the property.
The confiscated livestock are being cared for by Dr. Joe Hardt, a local veterinarian, at two locations: one a local sale barn and the other a property owned by a cowboy contracted by the Sheriff’s Office.
Michael Dear is an attorney in Anderson County who specializes in LLCs. He and his wife also operate a livestock business known as Dear Ranch, raising and selling cattle, mules, and goats. The Dears formerly lived on the property but now live a few miles away.
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 Anderson County District Attorney Allyson Mitchell’s office. Mitchell will decide whether to prosecute it as a criminal case.