(SUMMERDALE, Ala.) - Rescue workers are calling it the worst case of animal cruelty they’ve ever seen. More than 200 dogs, cats and horses were found caged and starving at Purple Hearted Puppies Animal Shelter in Summerdale.
We've now learned that at least 42 of them had died or starved to death, and some of the dogs had resorted to cannibalism. The two horses had to be put down because they were in such poor condition.
Police are still trying to piece together what led up to the horrible conditions at the so-called rescue center. They believe the owners, Sharon and Roberta Dueitt, simply took off. Today, the investigation has shifted to the Dueitt's home in Robertsdale where more neglected animals have been found.
The mother and daughter were arrested when they showed up at the shelter last night. They claim they left the shelter in the care of employees while they went out of town. They were charged with 20 counts of animal cruelty each, but we've learned the Dueitts have bonded out of jail this morning.
The number of charges they are facing will likely rise as more animals have to be euthanized due to such poor health.
“Surprisingly they attempted to pass the blame onto those that they had hired instead of taking any responsibility themselves,” says Officer Hugh Bohannon with the Summerdale Police Department.
“Everything is just, it's kind of unbelievable,” says rescue worker Steve Williams.
Volunteers were speechless last night as they worked to calm terrified animals and clean cages layered with filth. Dogs frantically scooped up food after not being fed for days or weeks.
“They're starving, they're emaciated, they're malnourished,” says Deneen Balistere with the Baldwin County Humane Society.
Police estimate the animals were abandoned between a week and ten days ago, but volunteers say it’s clear some of them have gone longer than that without eating.
“The only way this can happen is through sheer neglect,” says Williams.
As of early Friday morning, police are searching for at least two more employees of the shelter.
The animals were treated by a vet on scene Thursday night. Some were transported to shelters, while others were moved inside to clean kennels on the property.
Nearly every animal rescue group in the area responded Thursday night, but they still need lots of help. Donations of food, leashes, towels and money are needed, as well as volunteers to help clean.
Most of all, foster homes are needed for the surviving animals. Anyone able to foster a cat or dog can show up at the property starting at Friday. It’s at 21118 County Road 36 in Summerdale.