TIMPSON, TEXAS (KTRE) - Investigators with the Shelby County Sheriff's Department didn't really know what to expect. Scott Flowers, the son of the farm owner did. First thing, he casts blame on the caretaker. He spells the name of the woman his mother, Virginia Sweeney, arranged to care for the animals in exchange for room and board and a place to keep some of her own animals. All that Sheriff Newton Johnson asked at that point was for flowers to open the locked gate. He permitted the deputies on the property, but stopped our cameras at the gate.
Friends of the caretaker sent the East Texas newsroom pictures of malnourished animals. There are as many as 22 dogs, some in small cages. Horses needing food and medication. The caretaker says she can no longer care for her boss' animals. Other pictures showed horse carcasses with dogs hauling the bones away. Another showed a dog, nothing but skin and bones, that appeared to be dying. "It's not my fault. I had no transportation, and no money," said Marian Feinauer. "How was I supposed to take care of these animals if he's not bringing me enough food."
The woman says she moved to East Texas from Houston about a year ago to help Sweeney with the animals. "There were so many more when I arrived, but they weren't fed enough and began to die. I did the best I could with what I had." On the 150 acres there were horses and donkeys, miniature horses, feral pig crosses, dogs, guinea pigs, goats and exotic birds. Feinauer said that Sweeney became ill about five months ago requiring hospitalization. "That's when it got really bad. Scott would rarely bring food for the animals."
An e-mail from Sweeney to Feinauer indicates the woman that has so many animals is living in a Timpson apartment with her son. Much of the e-mail casts blame on Feinauer. Feinauer said she would turn the horses and goats out on a lush pasture, but when Flowers would find out he would make her pen them or place on a pasture with less grass. Neighbors had complained of the horses crossing into their property. "My answer to that is fix the fence," said Feinauer, "but he never would."
Feinauer said if she left the animals they would have no chance of living, but eventually she found herself abandoned too. "I had no phone. I had very little food. I had no transportation," she described. Two nights ago a friend conducted a rescue. She found Feinauer hungry. So were the animals. "I opened up my door. They jumped in and were ravenous. They were eating the horse pellets, " said Miriam Mumm of Nacogdoches. They also ate animals alive according to Feinauer. "They (dogs) got my goat, just literally just eating him alive. He was still breathing."
Flowers was asked how this happened? He responded to each question with, " I just got here." Investigators returned from the farm house covered with fleas. They are now asking questions about what they saw. "I have seen horses in worse shape. They need attention, but I've seen worse," said Sheriff Johnson. "As far as the dogs they are in poor shape. They need to be tended. They just can't survive on their own."
Animal advocate Jeran Stephens of Nacogdoches first notified the East Texas News. She also contacted the SPCA in Houston to see if they could assist. They were willing if local authorities asked for the help. "They have the resources to take care of this many animals. They can provide the food, care and vet care," explained Stephens. Later Sheriff Johnson began making arrangements to have the agency come to Shelby County. As of late Friday no charges had been filed against anyone.