Thirty-eight counts of animal cruelty are expected to be filed against two Little Hocking residents who were found Friday to be living in squalor along with nearly 80 animals in and around the mobile home they rented.
The woman at the center of the case, Vicki D. Gray, 55, of 3265 School House Road, said on Monday she knows she has a problem and wants help but maintains the animals were cared for.
"I know the house was bad, I guarantee that," she said. "I am an animal hoarder and I was just trying to do what I thought was right."
BRAD BAUER The Marietta Times
Washington County Humane Officer Levi Seevers encourages one of the dogs taken last week from a Little Hocking home to come out of its cage so it could be treated and walked. Nearly 80 animals were taken from the home, at 3265 School House Road, resulting in summons being requested against two individuals for animal cruelty.
Gray and Willie B. Ross, 64, who lived together in the home, face up to 90 days in jail and $750 in fines on each count of a summons requested Monday by the Washington County Sheriff's Office. A court date for the couple had not been set as of Monday.
Gray's sister, Linette Taylor, 47, of Belpre, said her sister has physical and emotional problems that likely contributed to the conditions at the home.
"I hate the word 'hoarder' but after watching my sister and watching shows about hoarding on TV, I think she has an addiction... a fear of losing things," Taylor said. "I think that's because she lost so much when she was younger."
How to help
Provide a temporary foster home for a shelter animal.
Donate dog food, blankets, Dawn dish liquid, laundry soap or money.
Volunteer some time at the shelter.
Contact the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley, 90 Mount Tom Road, Marietta, 45750.
Phone the shelter at (740) 373-5959, Ext. 3.
More information online at www.hsov.org
Taylor said Gray was abused by her stepfather and an ex-husband. She said she was homeless at one point and lived on a riverbank.
"She's always cared for everyone but herself," she said. "I know it sounds strange but it's true. She would ignore her own needs to make sure everyone else is cared for. And she loved caring for her animals."
Taylor said she went to the residence on Friday when the search warrant was being executed and said she believes the animals were being cared for adequately.
"Maybe they could have been groomed a little better but they had food and water," she said. "If they're ready to go into homes, how bad could they be?"
Thirty-four dogs (including 10 puppies), 11 birds, four rabbits, two ducks and 27 chickens were removed from the property, according to a report from the Washington County Sheriff's Office. All but a few of the dogs were inside the mobile home, along with the birds. The rest of the animals were caged outside, near the home.
The sheriff's office previously stated there were 82 animals at the home but the count was revised to 78. Also, a puppy and a duck taken from the home Friday have since died and a rabbit had to be euthanized because of an injury that did not receive proper care, sheriff's officials said.
Deputies said when they were searching the home that almost everything was covered by feces and urine. The animals were said to be infested by fleas and some appeared to be malnourished. The home has since been deemed to be uninhabitable by the county health department.
According to Marietta Municipal Court records, Gray was ordered to undergo counseling and to not have more than three pets after she was sentenced in January on charges related to an attempt to shoplift dog food.
Gray said she had about 15 dogs at the time of the court order.
"I was trying to figure out who to get rid of and who to keep and it was hard because I loved them all," she said.
Washington County Humane Officer Levi Seevers said Gray had contacted his office four to five times in the past few years to surrender dogs. He said Gray had called the humane society again Thursday, asking if the shelter could help her by taking in six more dogs. He said the call aroused suspicion as shelter personnel knew she had been limited in January to keeping only three dogs.
"Over the past few years, she would call every now and then and say she had too many dogs to care for," he said. "We would go out and take five or six dogs every time she called. One time we took as many as 10 dogs ... But she wouldn't let us in the home or really ever answer to us how many animals she had."
Gray admitted to collecting the animals as she would see them listed for free in local classified ads or on Internet sites. She said at times she would feel "overwhelmed" and turn over some of the dogs.
Steve Herron, manager of the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley, said all of the animals are being held as evidence until released by the courts. Animals in better health are available to be placed with foster families. Some of the dogs, and all of the birds and rabbits have been placed in foster families.
"The community has really been great and helped us out a lot over the weekend," Herron said. "But we still need help with supplies and especially with finding foster homes for these dogs. We're at full-capacity."