Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff Jeff Wheeler walks property owner Vickie Gorrell off her property to be transported to the county jail Tuesday on charges of neglect of a vetebrate animal, a Class A misdemeanor. More than 100 dogs and dozens of other animals were seized from her property west of Hanover. (Madison Courier staff photo by Mark Campbell)
Jefferson County Deputy Sheriff Jeff Wheeler walks property owner Vickie Gorrell off her property to be transported to the county jail Tuesday on charges of neglect of a vetebrate animal, a Class A misdemeanor. More than 100 dogs and dozens of other animals were seized from her property west of Hanover. (Madison Courier staff photo by Mark Campbell)
A local property owner was arrested in an animal neglect case Tuesday as local and state authorites and volunteers spent most of the day recovering dozens of dogs and other animals from a rural area west of Hanover.
Vickie Gorrell, of Madison, was arrested and charged with neglect of a vertebrate animal, a Class A misdemeanor, and taken to the Jefferson County Jail Tuesday morning after authorities showed up at the property Gorrell owns at 8:30 a.m. Once there they found dogs and puppies, and dozens of other animals ranging from a goat to six pot-belly pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, cats and birds. No official totals have been released at this time, but some unconfirmed reports indicated the number was well above 100.
The arrest came after more than two weeks of investigation after police were called to the site Jan. 15 to investigate a report of a malnourished dog. Two animals were removed from the site that day with local authorities, state agencies and volunteers using the next two weeks to organize a much bigger recovery of all animals at the site.
Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department Detective Yancey Denning said the animals they removed Tuesday were not in as bad shape as those taken Jan. 15 but the conditions they were living in were inhumane with no food or water in most cages and the ground covered in feces.
“We’ve not found any dead animals but we’ve found several that are in pretty bad shape,” Denning said. “We’ve walked through the whole property but we will be here the rest of the day recovering animals and getting them the help that they need.”
Denning said three people actually either live or frequent the address, a mobile home and several outbuildings and other structures where the various animals were held — some caged, some housed and some merely chained – but Gorrell has indicated ownership of all the animals on site so she is the only person being charged at this time.
“The others were kind of aggressive when we arrived but they have since calmed down and realize we are doing a good thing here,” Denning said.
According to Denning the site has dozens of assorted breeds with many separated by breed and although there are several puppies at the location, the site does not appear to be a breeding operation.
“We have received no indication that this is a breeding operation, but any time you have that many animals in the same place there are going to be puppies,” Denning said.
Among the groups at the site to help deal with the recovery were the Madison Jefferson County Animal Shelter, the Scott County Humane Society and Dr. Kyle Shipman, field operations director for the Indiana State Board of Animal Health (BOAH), who appeared to be heading the recovery.
BOAH staffers and others who went onto the site wore multiple layers of protective clothing and worked during an intermittent rainfall. One of the BOAH staffers who had been on site for about an hour said the scene was “Horrible. Beyond horrible.”
As the day continued and more and more neighbors came upon the more than two dozen people and multiple vehicles loading and transporting animals from the site, several stopped to ask what was taking place. Upon hearing that authorities were at the site to charge Gorrell and recover the dozens of animals, none seemed surprised.
“They’re known to be animal hoarders. I know the neighbors have had problems with dead dogs showing up in their yards,” said Marco Preston, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years and was driving by in his pickup truck with his 8-year-old boxer, Diesel, riding shotgun. “I’m an animal rights guy and that’s just not right. I knew they were hoarders but I didn’t know it was this bad.”
The animals were removed from the site and relocated to several undisclosed locations for evaluation and care.