THOMAS CO., GA (WALB) - A Brooks county man is facing several animal cruelty charges after Animal control officials seized over 70 dogs that were hoarded on his property.
Thomas county officials said they have never experienced an animal hoarding case this severe.
When they arrived at Richard Jerry McLeod's property on Liberty Church Road last Wednesday, they couldn't believe what they saw.
And after speaking with McLeod, officials said he truly believed he was providing the best care for these animals.
Starving, scarred, and scared are the words Animal Control officials used to describe the 72 dogs they found on McLeod's property, after being notified by concerned neighbors.
"We had asked how many dogs were there and his initial answer was something like 25," said Thomas County Humane Society Ed Williams. "And so when we got about to number 50, we were beginning to sort of wonder what was going on."
One by one, officials said McLeod willingly handed over the animals.
"There wasn't any food or water," Williams said. "All of them were severely dehydrated, malnourished, and had a lot of open wounds because they had been fighting over resources."
Williams said the dogs were found in junkyard cars or out in the woods on the two acres of property.
A few of them were found in a historic church in front of the home.
"The entire floor, everywhere, was littered with stool, the stench was horrendous," said Dr. Laura Hall, an associate veterinarian at Clanton-Malphus-Hodges Veterinary. "It kind of took your breath away walking in to the church."
Dr. Hall evaluated each dog after they were retrieved from the property and vaccinated them.
Brooks county deputies arrested McLeod, charging him with multiple counts of cruelty to animals, aggravated cruelty to animals, failure to comply with rabies vaccinations, animals running at large, keeping of sick or diseased animals, lack of shelter requirements, and obstruction.
McLeod is out on bond.
Animal Control supervisor Chandler Giddes said he's watched shows about hoarding on T.V., but this incident gave him a new understanding.
"It's a disease," said Giddes. "He doesn't understand that anything was wrong. These were his. This was all he had to live for. He couldn't comprehend that he wasn't doing it correctly."
Three of the dogs have died since they were taken from the property, due to dehydration and encephalitis.
The remaining dogs are being taken care of at the Humane society.
The Humane Society said, since they are helping a neighboring county, they have not budgeted to provide care for this many additional dogs.
They're in need of donations and some extra helping hands.
You can call the Thomas County Humane Society at (229) 228-0613 or visit their website to learn how you can help.