'Hoarding gone wrong': Massive cruelty case has some questioning Ky. animal laws

AMELIA, OH (FOX19) - A massive cruelty investigation involving hundreds of animals unfolding in Elliott County, Ky. has local ties.

On Tuesday, a rescue based out of Amelia, Ohio took in more than a dozen dogs and cats as part of the case. The seized animals are now staying on property shared by All Dogs Come From Heaven rescue and All Creatures Animal Hospital.

All Dogs Come From Heaven rescuers said that in total, they took 14 dogs and four cats from the Trixie Foundation in Elliott County. The Trixie Foundation claims to be a non-profit sanctuary dedicated to rescuing animals.

"It's not a sanctuary. It's not," said Lisa Rabanus, who is on the rescue's board and serves as legal counsel.

The rescue worked with county prosecutors and other agencies for nine months to come up with a plan. Ultimately, they got legal permission to remove a small batch of animals -- the ones who most desperately needed medical care. A group of people, including volunteers, police, a vet, and several others went to the property Tuesday and removed the animals. The animals are now getting medical care at the animal hospital.

"None of these dogs have ever seen a vet that we know of," said Margaret Coplen, the vice president of the rescue. "The dogs live in squalor. They live in feces. They don't get fresh food. The majority of the food they're being fed is old, molded food."

Volunteers who went to the site Tuesday said the property looks like a dirt-mud pit with an assortment of wooden shacks.

"It's basically like hoarding gone horribly, horribly wrong," Rabanus said.

Randy Skaggs, who runs the foundation, is currently facing charges, including 179 counts of cruelty to animals and another 179 counts for reportedly not vaccinating his dogs.

"You're loving these animals to death whether you think you're doing the right thing," Rabanus said.

Coplen said it's unclear what will happen to the remaining animals while the case moves through the courts, but they are hopeful they will be removed too.

"There are still several hundred souls out there living in that condition," Coplen said.

Skaggs has publicly said and told Kentucky media outlets that he is fighting the charges. Rescuers who went to the site Tuesday said that Skaggs told them he gives animals with no other options a place to go. While those involved in this case do admit there are no other shelters in that area, they believe this case is a perfect example of why the animal laws in Kentucky need a huge facelift.

"Randy Skaggs is a symptom of what can happen when the state doesn't do what it needs to do to protect animals," Rabanus said.

Rescuers said they will continue to take care of the animals they seized Tuesday and have legal ownership of them while the investigation continues.

Animal advocates have said they have been fighting for the foundation to be shut down for 15 years, but Skaggs has continued to fight for it to stay open.

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