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Wilma Jones forfeits animals
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Saying she is financially unable to pay nearly $100,000 an animal protection agency wants for upkeep of 124 dogs seized from her property, Wilma Jones waived her ownership rights Tuesday to all but four dogs and five birds.
“It feels like someone is taking my baby out of my arms,” Jones told Circuit Court Judge Bart Stanley on Tuesday morning, saying there’s no way she can pay the $93,783 bill Animal Rescue Corp says it needs for upkeep of the animals thus far. “My dogs were my family. No one could love a dog more than me.”
Her testimony came as Judge Stanley heard a motion to force Jones to put up a bond to pay for the continued housing of 124 dogs being held by Animal Rescue Corp in Nashville. The dogs were taken from her Bratcher’s Crossroads home last Tuesday.
Members of ARC had received complaints about the care of her animals and sent undercover officers there posing as buyers to get a first-hand look. ARC then came in and removed the animals with the assistance of the Warren County Sheriff’s Department, saying at least seven dogs were found dead and others were not in good shape. The animals are being held at Tennessee State Fairgrounds in Nashville and, given the partial resolution Tuesday, most are now be eligible for adoption.
Under an agreement reached by Jones and prosecutors, she will surrender her rights to all but four dogs and five birds. ARC wanted $3,100 for housing the four dogs thus far, a request which was met with gasps from Jones’ supporters in the courtroom. Judge Stanley declined the high amount saying Jones would have to put up a $400 guarantee pending a custody hearing April 14 on the disputed four dogs and five birds.
“It doesn’t take that much to take care of a dog per day,” Jones said of ARC’s estimates, pointing out she cared for the numerous dogs for years on her $660 a month Social Security check. “I took care of them to the best of my ability.”
District Attorney General Lisa Zavogiannis suggested, however, that Jones may not be as indigent as she sounds, noting she not only owns 21 acres and a large house, but that lawmen had found checks payable to her for dogs she had sold. Jones countered that the check found at her home was a hot check she could not cash.
Judge Stanley found Jones too indigent to make the high payments requested by ARC, noting he was not going to force her to sell her property and vehicle for the animals. He did not set a security on the birds taken during the raid.
“Those birds were in good shape and weren’t bothering anybody,” Jones said, questioning why ARC took the birds. “They were talking to me and keeping me from going crazy.”
Jones specifically gave the serial numbers, assigned to the confiscated dogs, of the four animals she wants to keep. They are a Pyrenees, Yorkshire, poodle and terrier.
Jones has not been charged with any crime, but Zavogiannis said a criminal investigation is ongoing. The local grand jury meets this Friday.