Corydon couple face 26 counts of animal neglect
A Corydon man and woman each were charged with 26 counts of cruelty to an animal, each a Class A misdemeanor, early last month as a result of an investigation that began on Jan. 28.
According to the probable cause affidavit, David Wheatley, an officer with the Harrison County Sheriff’s Dept., responded to a call about possible animal cruelty at 2630 Whippoorwill Lane near Corydon, property owned by John Anthony Starkey, 36, and Savanna L. Starkey, 31.
Wheatley said he arrived at the residence at about 4:50 p.m. on Jan. 28.
“The call notes stated there was a cow laying in a field that looked like it was dying,” Wheatley said in the affidavit. “As I looked around, I noticed a cow laying in the field that looked very thin. The cow was only moving its front legs as it laid there.”
About six hours later, Wheatley said he returned to the property with Harrison County Animal Control Officer April Breeden.
“Upon arriving on scene, I noticed the cow was no longer laying in the field,” Wheatley said. “I could see drag marks in the snow that led to the house.”
As Wheatley and Breeden approached the residence, John Starkey met them outside. After Wheatley told Starkey who they were and why they were there, Breeden asked where the cow was, to which Starkey said it was in the house.
Breeden asked if they could see the cow, and Starkey invited them inside, according to the affidavit.
Savanna Starkey was in the kitchen when they entered, and the dead cow was laying on the kitchen floor.
Four days later, Breeden and veterinarian Grant Hinder returned to the residence for a follow-up investigation. It was determined the cow had been malnourished and emaciated.
A search warrant was served on March 5 by Wheatley to locate and seize any animals at the Starkeys that were neglected and/or showed signs of neglect. Wheatley was assisted by Breeden and three others from animal control, along with Hinder and his assistant.
“As we entered the home, the first thing I noticed was a very strong smell of animal feces throughout the house,” Wheatley said, according to the affidavit. “The inside of the house was very messy with visible animal feces on the floor. We found a small Pyrenes puppy that was malnourished and an older dog in the kitchen.
“In the dining room area we found two chinchillas that had little to no food and were living in dirty cages,” he continued. “In the covered porch area off of the dining room, there was a dead rat in an old rabbit cage. In the living room area, there was a large tortoise … with no food or water. Dr. Hinder said that the tortoise needed to be in an environment with plenty of vegetation to eat. It did not have that.”
Another malnourished dog, in a cage, was found in an upstairs bedroom without food or water.
In the basement, six rabbits in separate cages that were dirty and uncleaned, along with one loose rabbit, were located. Wheatley said only two of the rabbits had food and water in a cage. Also in the basement, baby chicks were found in a small cage with a heat lamp but no food or water.
Also in the basement, there was a small pig in a small cage that was malnourished and “its spine was very easily seen under the skin,” the police officer said.
Among dead animals in the basement were three or four chicks/chickens and three rabbits. There was also a dead bat in a small egg incubator.
A search outdoors of the property turned up two dead rabbits in a box, a dead Zebu cow, the skeletal remains of a small dog and a Styrofoam cooler containing the remains of a baby goat. Multiple dead chickens were found in a pen/coop, and, according to Wheatley, there were may old animal bones scattered throughout the woods and the yard.
A pen at the back of the property contained three small pigs with very little water, which was dirty and stagnant, the officer noted.
The goat and sheep pens also had dirty water and little food, and the pens were down to the ground with no vegetation.
“I picked up one of the small goats, and it seemed very thin and bony to the touch,” Wheatley said. “Another small goat had feces all over its back end and it looked unhealthy.”
Another dead goat and a dead duck were found; Wheatley said they both appeared to be recently deceased.
A pen in the front yard housed a miniature horse, pony and Zebu cow but there was no vegetation, the water supply was dirty and there was little food in the pen.
A dead Zebu cow that appeared to have been deceased for a while was located in a small metal building used for animal shelter.
When Wheatley asked John Starkey how long the deceased cow had been in the shelter, he said he did not know it was there.
The affidavit said Hinder physically examined the animals found on the property, and it was determined 69 animals would be seized due to neglect and/or evidence of neglect.
“The neglect ranged from animals being malnourished, unsafe/unsanitary living conditions and illness,” Wheatley said.
The seized animals consisted of 11 adult chickens, two guinea fowl, 24 baby chicks, two chinchillas, one tortoise, seven rabbits, three dogs, three sheep, four pigs, one miniature horse, one pony, one Zebu cow and nine goats. They were taken from the property about six hours after the search warrant was served on the Starkeys.
Both John and Savanna Starkey appeared in court in early April and a motion was granted for a continuance. They are scheduled to be in court Monday, May 2, at 9 a.m.