Woman arrested for animal cruelty in puppy mill bust

Catledge is being held in the Colbert County Jail.
Catledge is being held in the Colbert County Jail.

COLBERT COUNTY, AL (WAFF) - Colbert County authorities arrested a woman after busting a puppy mill and rescuing more than 120 dogs.

Debra Catledge, 53, was arrested on 15 counts of second-degree dog/cat cruelty, a misdemeanor. Bond for each charge was set at $50.

Deputies rescued the dogs Tuesday after getting a tip about a large puppy mill in operation at a home off Highway 72.

Catledge is currently in the Colbert County Jail. More charges are expected to be filed.

The dogs have been taken to the Colbert County Animal Shelter to be evaluated and prepared for foster homes and adoptive families.

Animal Control Officer Anthony Wilbanks is hoping this case will serve as a lesson to those in the community.

"We're hoping people will understand: you can't just take dogs and stick them in pens just to breed them to make money. There's no financial gain if you actually do the right thing and carry them to the vet."

Wilbanks said several of the dogs they recovered suffered from rotting teeth, testicular cancer, and other injuries.

"These guys have never touched a solid surface until we got them in here. They were in rabbit pens with chicken wire," he said.

Meanwhile, nearly 100 people stood in line in front of the Colbert County Animal Shelter Friday morning, hoping to claim one of the many dogs deemed adoptable. However, officials were soon forced to close the shelter.

Officials said someone standing in line actually called the Sheriff's Department because they said people began to get violent. Sheriff Ronnie May sent several deputies out to secure the area throughout the day. Witnesses said some people in line were threatening others and shoving one another.

After deputies evaluated the situation, the DA's office put a hold on all adoptions for the Yorkshire Terriers and Pomeranians taken from the home. The shelter closed its doors to stop the heavy foot traffic - only opening them to volunteers, donations and the few visitors there to adopt other shelter animals not connected to the case.

"We knew we were going to be overwhelmed today but we had no idea it was going to get this extreme," said Wilbanks.

At least 50 dogs have been taken from the shelter by rescue groups. Those dogs are in need of additional medical care and will have to be rehabilitated before being adopted out.

Shelter officials ask the community for patience in sorting out the situation and said they will update the public on their Facebook page.

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