News From Terre Haute, Indiana

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August 13, 2013

To the rescue: Community effort brings hope to neglected animals

TERRE HAUTE — Fresh and clean from baths and with new haircuts, nearly two dozen dogs rescued from an alleged case of animal neglect are awaiting the next chapters in their lives.

About half of the dogs are at the home of various “foster” families – people who take in homeless dogs and cats from the Terre Haute Humane Society shelter.

The other half remain at the shelter.

“These guys are doing pretty well,” said Sharon Mattison, rescue coordinator for the Humane Society, as she watched three small dogs jumping up and standing on their hind legs seeking her attention. “They are personable dogs,” but they obviously are unfamiliar with a leash and have never been house trained, she added.

Nearby, two small puppies – estimated at just five weeks old – played energetically. When they first arrived at the shelter last week, they were dehydrated, Mattison said of the pair, named “Jack” and “Jill.”

On Thursday, the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department discovered a home in western Vigo County at which two children, an elderly woman, about 20 dogs, two cats and a bird were living in what were described as seriously unsanitary conditions.

The animals “were loaded with fleas and ticks,” said Charlie Brown, director of the Humane Society shelter, who was part of a team of shelter employees who went to the home to collect the animals. Some dogs had fur that was so matted they could not properly defecate, he said.

“It was an unpleasant place,” Brown said. The animals “lived in filth.” A few deceased dogs were discovered in the home curled up in their empty dog dishes, he said.

While the animals are in the care of the shelter and foster families, they are not available for adoption, Brown noted. That is because the dogs are not the shelter’s property and are “basically evidence” in a pending legal case involving allegations of animal cruelty.

Police on Thursday arrested Kenneth and Tracy Walling of Marion Heights, which is north of West Terre Haute. They are facing allegations of child neglect concerning their two small children and 24 counts of animal cruelty. They are scheduled to appear in court Wednesday for the filing of formal charges.

It took Humane Society staff less than two hours to round up all of the animals at the Walling’s residence, Brown said. The animals were loaded into two vans and transported to the shelter for evaluation, he said.

Meanwhile, preparations were under way back at the shelter, Brown said. A triage area was set up so that when the animals arrived they could be evaluated, treated for fleas, vaccinated, washed and groomed.

“Everyone did a great job,” Brown said. “They did exactly the job that needed to be done.”

Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at 812-231-4232 or

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