Couples faces 39 animal cruelty charges in Bradley County

Couples faces 39 animal cruelty charges in Bradley County

June 8th, 2011 by Ben Benton in News

James Freeman, 48, and Patricia Freeman, 53, are expected to go before a judge today after they were given a summons to appear. The couple reported to the jail Monday night and were released, according to a released statement.

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A second hearing in a case against a Bradley County couple who face 39 counts of animal cruelty has been set for June 14, court officials said.

James Freeman, 48, and Patricia Freeman, 53, turned themselves in on the charges Monday night and appeared Tuesday in Bradley County General Sessions Court for arraignment, Bradley County Sheriff's Office spokesman Bob Gault said. Both are free on their own recognizance.

The Freemans said they had too many animals, but they were not neglected.

"In my opinion, it was a very unfortunate misunderstanding," James Freeman said Tuesday. "I won't say that the [officer] was totally in the wrong. He probably thought he was doing right."

He said there was dog food and oats for the horses on the premises when the officers were there.

Gault said 39 animals - 20 dogs, two horses, 16 birds and a cat - did not have clean water or food in the 90-degree temperatures at the Freemans' home on Ellis Drive in South Cleveland.

"Deputies used a hose and several buckets that were found at the residence to give the animals fresh water," Gault said. He said it took about 90 minutes to give all the animals water.

As the officers were finishing, the Freemans came home and the couple was served a criminal summons to appear in court on the charges on Tuesday. The officers were tipped off about the problem by a person passing by a nearby traffic stop on Friday.

"The two horses were in need of being seen by a vet, according to [the] Cleveland City animal control officer," an affidavit of complaint filed by Deputy Joe Renner states.

The affidavit states that animal control officers have responded to the Freemans' home about 70 times, but does not specify the period of time. Gault said he didn't know the nature of those visits.

James Freeman disputed the number of visits, though he admits officers have come to their home "several times."

"They didn't come out here no 70 times," he said. "If they did, it was while I was gone. That's another miscalculation."

Animal control officers took custody of all the animals except the birds, he said. Fourteen chickens, two other birds and the cat were still at their home, he said.

Cleveland Animal Control Division officials said Director Gene Smith and the animal control officer working on the investigation were not available Tuesday to comment.

Court officials said the Freemans could request an attorney or enter a plea in next week's hearing.

Contact staff writer Ben Benton at 423-757-6569 or bbenton@timesfreepress.com