Police sirens

Authorities seized two more cows from the Dear Ranch in Anderson County, with a new court hearing looming.

On Thursday afternoon, Capt. Ginger Lively, of the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office, went before Judge Gary Thomas to get a seizure warrant for a heifer and a calf.

The two cows were added to the 95 animals previously seized by the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

On Sept. 23, Michael and Francis Dear were found responsible for cruel treatment of their livestock in the court of Judge Thomas.

The Dears have been ordered to pay housing and vet fees for the seized animals, as well as court costs of $20,000. Thomas ordered the animals auctioned.

The Dears have filed an appeal that will be heard in County Court at Law at 9 a.m. Monday.

This is a “trial de novo,” which means new trial with new evidence and testimony.

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, Lively investigated the property, finding dead horses and cattle, and two weak horses.

She requested, and obtained, a warrant from Judge Thomas to seize the two horses that day.

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.

Pictures of the dead animals showed them 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.”

The confiscated livestock are 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.

During the hearing on Sept. 23, Michael Dear and his wife were represented by attorneys Charlie Nichols and Dan Scarborough.

Dear testified he had employed a fencing contractor, Jose Rodriguez, to work on fence and install gates. He said he told Rodriguez and his work crews to leave all gates open.

Dear said he left the gates open to an area with a spring fed creek, giving the livestock access to water at all times; they had not used the water troughs in the last two years. He reported the well on the property had dried up and that the water spigots no longer worked.

He told the court the property had a spring fed source, as well as two ponds. Gates were left open to allow livestock to roam, eat, and seek water.

Dear testified he checked on the fencing every few days, that his wife had seen buzzards, but neither had smelled anything or had knowledge of the dead animals.

Nichols argued the fence workers had closed off the source of water for the livestock that died, and the cowboys who rounded up the cattle for the Sheriff’s Office, using dogs, had over stressed the livestock.

Scarborough and Nichols both argued that the confiscated livestock were in good condition, had access to food and water, and had not been neglected.

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.

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