Couple jailed, nearly 200 animals seized at Kiln
By Geoff Belcher
Apr 12, 2013, 19:22
More than 85 cats were seized at Kiln on Wednesday. More than 40 of them were being kept crowded together in a single small shed. Most had to be euthanized due to respiratory infections.
Hancock County sheriff's deputies on Wednesday arrested a Louisiana couple for allegedly hoarding more than 100 animals at Kiln in a secluded compound of rental sheds, ramshackle outbuildings and dilapidated campers that reeked of feces, urine and despair.
Hancock Animal Shelter staff said most of the dogs seized Wednesday are healthy and should find good homes.
Sharon Merritt, 59, and Todd Klibert, 55 – both of Metairie – were charged Wednesday with 50 counts each of cruelty to animals, Deputy Colin Freeman, animal control officer, said Wednesday. Additional charges would follow once a more accurate count of the animals was complete, Freeman said.
About 40 rabbits were seized, most of them healthy, including a number of expensive "lion-head" rabbits, deputies said.
Sheriff Ricky Adam said Friday that both Merritt and Kilbert were still being held at the Hancock County Jail on a $2,500 bond each.
Although Merritt and Klibert both list Louisiana addresses, Freeman said, they apparently kept the animals in a wooded area off Tal Moran Road at Kiln, far away from any neighbors.
"No animal should have to live like this," Freeman said at the scene.
Deputies found a large assortment of cats, dogs, rabbits, chickens, ducks. quail and turkeys in the buildings and campers, Freeman said.
Staff members from the Hancock County Animal Shelter and Pet Haven Veterinary Clinic were on the scene Wednesday, evaluating the animals' conditions and euthanizing the ones that could not be saved.
All 82 of the cats had to be put down due to a number of respiratory diseases, including feline AIDs, herpes and chlamydia, animal shelter Director Toni Accardo said at the scene.
Volunteers worked late into the night and most of the day Thursday, cleaning up the scene.
"A few of the rabbits also have upper respiratory problems," veterinarian Dr. Jennifer Ladnier said at the scene, "but most of them are doing pretty well, considering. I think most of these that can be saved are going to find a good home."
Accardo said Friday that most of the animals taken into custody have already found new homes.
"We have 17 rabbits left," she said. "All the poultry has been adopted and all the other rabbits have been adopted. We’ve done a really good job and we’re opening Saturday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. for people who couldn’t come today."
Many of the rabbits had been in their cages so long that they had grown too large to be taken out through the doors and had to be cut out, Bay St. Louis Animal Control officer Dorty Necaise said.
This is the second animal hoarding case Accardo has faced since becoming the shelter director in June 2012, she said, "but this is worse because it involves a variety of species of animals in worse conditions."
"People need to understand that this isn't going to be tolerated in our county," Accardo said. "We just want people to know that – before they get into this situation – we're here to help.
"It's just not fair to the animals to have to live in this condition."
To report a case of animal hoarding or for help with a similar problem, call the Hancock County Animal Shelter at 228-466-4516.