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When Franklin County Animal Control employee Jimmy Riddle searched a Decherd, Tenn., property this month, he found a pack of dogs, starving and worse.
"I saw animals that appeared malnourished," he said. "I saw dogs that were dead and decaying on the chain."
The visit on Aug. 12 came three days after neighbors called Chief Deputy Brent Perry, the head of Franklin County Animal Control. They said they were watching dogs, too many dogs, running all over the place. Perry went to the property, 1829 Oak Grove Road, but no one was home.
Perry came back the next day and found the animals' owner, Elizabeth Jean Windom. They talked, and Perry fed the pets. He came back the next day and did the same thing.
On the 12th, Perry came with Franklin County Investigator George Dyer, and they searched the property. Inside doghouses and next to a chicken barn, they found the collection of dogs, 10 dead and 11 starving.
Perry and Dyer also found 21 dogs that were in good shape. All kinds of dogs: collies, miniature collies, German shepherds. Perry said they also found a horse, a mule, five chickens, a duck and eight cats.
And inside the house, living alongside a collection of cats and chickens, the investigators found five children. The Tennessee Department of Children's Services was summoned and took temporary custody of the children.
"It was beyond filthy," Perry said.
Officers arrested Windom, 56, on 28 counts of animal cruelty. She left jail Aug. 14 after paying a $15,000 bond, and she is scheduled to appear in Franklin General Sessions Court at 8 a.m. CDT Oct. 7.
Neighbors had complained to Animal Control several times about Windom's house, Perry said. The first time the department checked it out, Windom owned about 70 dogs, but they were healthy.
They all had shelter and plenty of water. Some needed to be vaccinated, but Windom complied soon after. Perry said she began to get rid of some of the dogs, and when Animal Control came a second time last year she owned about 50.
Those that survived are now in the county's custody. As a result, Perry said, the animal control center is overpopulated with about 60 pets. To make room, shelters in Clarksville and Chattanooga have taken in some of the Franklin County center's other animals.
Some county residents also have volunteered to care for the horse, mule and chickens.
Contact Staff Writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.