DALLAS COUNTY - Two horses and a dog seized by the SPCA of Texas from a home in Southeast Dallas will not be returned to their owner, a judge ruled Thursday.
SPCA animal cruelty investigators confiscated the animals after another dog died at the property in the Pleasant Grove neighborhood.
RELATED STORY: SPCA seizes animals from Dallas home after dead dog found
The civil court custody ruling Thursday came three weeks after the SPCA received a complaint about two emaciated dogs at the home.
Investigators testified that Reyna Piña and her husband told them they were renting the property and renovating the home. Piña and her husband did not show up for Thursday’s hearing.
SPCA Cruelty Investigator Staci Kimberlin first went to the home on November 15th. Kimberlin testified that she found two pit bulls tethered without food, water or shelter.
Kimberlin also said she was shocked to discover two horses in the garage, also without food.
On November 15th, Kimberlin told FOX 4 she could not do anything more than leave a notice on the door, because the animals were still alive.
“Right now, at this particular moment, nothing,” Kimberlin said. “I can’t do anything. If I went to a judge and said this is what I’ve got, I want to take these animals right now, it wouldn’t be enough.”
No one responded to the notice left at the house, so two days later, a different SPCA investigator went back to the home.
The investigator said the conditions had not improved, but he said he spoke with Piña in person. He said Piña claimed she fed the animals twice a day and promised to give the animals proper care.
Even after this second visit, the SPCA still did not have grounds for a warrant to seize the animal.
“The animals were active,” Kimberlin explained. “There was no indication whatsoever that these animals were in need of emergency seizure.
Unfortunately, by the 30th, with no contact from the owner whatsoever, that wasn't the case anymore for the one dog.”
Two weeks later on November 30th, the SPCA obtained a warrant and found one of the pit bulls, described as the one with a dark blue coat, dead inside the garage. They immediately seized the rest of the animals.
A necropsy revealed the blue pit bull had been dead three to five days from starvation. An SPCA veterinarian testified that the dog likely did not have food for 48 to 72 hours before it passed away. The only thing the veterinarian could find in its digestive system were a few leaves.
“It was very heartbreaking,” Kimberlin said.
The veterinarian said the surviving dog, a red and white pit bull, was very thin and had intestinal worms.
The younger horse, a one-year-old brown sorrel colt, was very thin and had intestinal worms. Its hooves were also chipped and cracked.
The black quarter horse mare, around three to five years old, was thin and had a lame left leg. The SPCA said an x-ray revealed the horse had a nail stuck in her foot, causing “significant pain.”
After hearing this testimony, the judge agreed that the animals had been cruelly-treated and awarded custody to the SPCA.
The property landlord, Antonio Lemus, attended the hearing with the former homeowner Debora Henderson.
“I saw what it said online about it on FOX 4 News and called him, and so we said, we better go up here to see what's going on,” Henderson said.
Lemus speaks little English, but he told investigators he had no idea Piña and her husband were keeping animals on the property.
“That lease said they weren't supposed to have any animals there,” Henderson explained. “I think that [Piña] had every opportunity to remedy the situation…Those are living beings. They have feelings. I think she should be held accountable.”
The judge also ordered Piña to pay $2,199.90 in restitution, but the SPCA said in a statement that it does not expect to receive any of that money to offset the cost of the investigation and care of the animals.
The SPCA said separate, criminal animal cruelty charges are pending against Piña.
In the meantime, the SPCA shelter workers named the three surviving animals: “Buck” for the dog and “Pirate” and “Treasure” for the two horses.
“I'm happy with the outcome of this simply because we want these animals to get better,” Kimberlin said after the hearing. “Especially the red pit bull, he turned out to be an absolute sweetheart, and I can't wait for him to find a good home.”
The animals will be put up for adoption in the coming weeks.
REPORT ANIMAL CRUELTY
Online: SPCA of Texas Website
By Phone: 214-461-1850
In an Emergency: Call 911