As a result of the seizure and continued holding of 124 dogs at an emergency shelter, prosecutors are asking the court to order the 72-year-old woman who owns the animals to help pay for their continued care.
In a motion to be heard Tuesday by Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley, prosecutors are asking the court to order Wilma Jones to post a security bond to cover “reasonable expenses” for the continued care of the animals, which are being held at Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville.
Prosecutors are also requesting if Jones does not make the secured payment, after 15 days the animals will automatically be forfeited and become eligible for adoption by the general public.
Jones said yesterday she will not mount a legal challenge to keep the dogs, although she would like to have the dogs that stayed with her inside her house returned for companionship.
“I would have forfeited the dogs while they were here,” said Jones, indicating she would have signed a waiver when law enforcement raided her home Tuesday, but they would not provide assurances her house dogs would be returned. “I tried to. They asked me to and I tried to. The only thing I asked them for was my four little pets. I had one that slept with me. I haven’t been to bed in 50 years without a little poodle beside me. They were my children. It’s like they came and took a baby out of my arms. It’s hurt me worse than anything other than when they told me my mother had died.”
Prosecutors have not given any indication if they will allow her four house dogs to be returned. Should Jones fight to keep the other 120 dogs, the cost could be staggering. Scotlund Haisley, president of Animal Rescue Corps which is operating the shelter in Nashville, has said the organization charges an initial fee of $6,500. After that, Haisley says ARC charges $10 to $15 per day, per animal. That doesn’t include additional veterinary care, if needed.
Using the low estimate of $10 per day, the minimal cost with 124 dogs would be $1,240 a day. Over the course of just one week, the minimal cost would be $8,680, in addition to the $6,500 up-front charge.
Assistant district attorney Josh Crain noted the easy way out for Jones would be to voluntarily relinquish her rights to the animals so they can be adopted by other families.
“The defendant may, at any time while the case is pending, forfeit the animals seized to the care of the state,” Crain said in his motion before the court. “The security requirement will be lifted for all expenses from that date forward.”
Crain said should Jones decide to forfeit the animals, or even post the security deposit to care for the dogs, it would not be used as an admission of wrongdoing should she later be charged with a criminal offense for the condition of the animals.
The court is presently only considering the security bond issue as prosecutors have not filed a forfeiture motion. In the meantime, ARC officials say they are in limbo. Although they have received many adoption inquiries, they are unable to adopt any of the animals because they are under a hold from the local District Attorney’s Office.
Jones presently faces no criminal charges after ARC and the Warren County Sheriff’s Department removed 124 dogs and five birds from her Mears Road property in the Centertown area on Tuesday. Investigators say the animals were found to be in deplorable living conditions, held in small cages with minimal care.
Two undercover agents posing as roommates went to the property under the guise they wanted to buy a dog after ARC received a complaint about the care of the animals there. ARC has worked with local authorities in past investigations regarding neglected horses.
In her defense, Jones said she cared for the animals the best she could. As a former member of the Humane Society, she has cared for animals for over 50 years. She has often accepted abandoned animals, many of which were dropped at her door without her permission. She denies any wrongdoing.