Cherokee County resident Ruth Pauline Staggs who was arrested and charged wit h47 counts of Animal Cruelty was back in Cherokee County District Court on Monday morning for a Restitution Hearing. She was ordered by District Judge Wes Mobley to pay just over $14,000 to the Cherokee County Humane Society and the Cherokee County Commission/Animal Control.
Judge Mobley sentenced Staggs to 30 days in jail and 11 months suspended sentence in the largest animal cruelty case the county has investigated and prosecuted last week. Staggs will not be allowed to have any animals, including livestock, during the sentencing period.
Many of the dogs and cats were in extremely poor physical condition. One puppy was dead in the front yard and other puppies were eating the body, Dr. Deaton said.
In addition to the dead puppy, nine dogs and cats died during treatment because of the severity of their illnesses after they were seized. Six of the nine animals were puppies who had parvovirus.
Most of dogs and cats at Staggs’ house did not have food and water available in their enclosures, although Staggs had two large containers of food on her porch, investigators said.
Two dead turtles in an aquarium without food or water were already dead when she found them, Staggs testified. She said she wanted to have a taxidermist preserve the bodies because her mother liked turtles and she could enjoy seeing them without having to feed them.
Staggs’ attorney, John Floyd, portrayed her as an animal lover in over her head with a job that required overtime and an elderly mother with health problems.
Judge Mobley said the evidence and testimony presented in court did not reflect the picture Staggs’ attorney and witnesses tried to depict.
“Something has gone terribly wrong,” Judge Mobley said in his ruling.
“What the court has in front of it now: This is not an animal shelter. This is not a place to care for animals. This is not even a proper place that an animal ever should be,” Mobley said in sentencing Staggs to jail time.
Animal Control Officer Dustin Dutton said, “This is a step forward in the state to get jail time in a case like this.”
In reacting to the verdict, Dr. Deaton said: “I am overwhelmed and thankful that justice has been served for CeeCee and her surviving friends, and to the nine animals that died despite our best care.”
Dr. Deaton said he has testified in more than 30 cruelty cases, and “this was the worst case of neglect and starvation I have seen.”
The veterinarian said teamwork from several agencies and animal welfare groups made getting the case to trial possible.