The friends and family of a South Carolina man accused of felony animal cruelty are speaking out in his defense, saying that accusations against him sound worse than the truth. Loney Garrett, a 64-year-old Vietnam Vet, is charged with 43 felony counts of ill treatment of animals after authorities allegedly found 45 living dogs and over 200 dead dogs on his Berkeley County property. ”It might look like it’s a horrific deal but he got overwhelmed with the amount of dogs that he had,” said a friend. Another friend said during a hearing that Garrett, who has no criminal record, loves dogs and hunting.
The thing about many cases of so-called “animal hoarding” is that the person accused of animal cruelty often does love animals, and collects them until there are too many to care for. Garrett, according to friends, would take in hounds who were unwanted after the hunting season. His constant adoptions of dogs were likely well-intentioned, but Garrett, who suffers from prostate cancer and diabetes, quickly became unable to care for dozens of large, active canines. “Based on his diminished health I think what was happening was he became overwhelmed with the amount of dogs that he had,” said his attorney, Melissa Gay. The animals lived in unvenitlated ramshackle crates on his property, where many of them died. ”It was a sea of bones back there,” said Bryan Cordell of Animal Rescue and Relief, Inc. Animal rescuer Michelle Reid, who had to collect and mark dog skeletons found on Garrett’s property, urged the judge to prohibit Garrett from owning animals again. She believes that being overwhelmed is no excuse for neglect.
According to police, Garrett may have become so overwhelmed that he had to put some of his dogs down. A spokesperson for the Berkeley County Sheriff’s Office said some of the dogs had been shot to death. Garrett’s wife Julia says authorities are lying: ”My husband never shoot no dog. He never shoot no dogs. Them dogs died, but I never knew him to shoot no dogs. He loved his dogs he wouldn’t shoot them.” Regarding the malnourished condition of the surviving animals, Julia Garrett said that hunting hounds are supposed to be thin: ”Hunting dogs ain’t going to get but so fat, and you cannot have hunting dogs fat if they plan to run in the woods and run deer. If they be fat, they ain’t going to do no running.” Some of the rescued dogs photographed by the SPCA appear to be too thin to do much running.
Garrett’s bond was set at $21,500. The SPCA was able to rescue 45 living hounds from the property and is caring for them at their facility. Photos of the dogs can be seen here.
Besides a misguided desire to collect animals, another motivation behind such cases is often money. Purebred puppies can sell for hundreds of dollars, so breeding them en masse can yield hefty profits. However, amateur breeders with cash on the mind often underestimate the difficulty of caring for dozens of dogs. Police and animal rescuers involved in puppy mill raids tell of horrific conditions where dogs share tiny cages with the rotting corpses of their deceased siblings. Puppy mills are particularly common in the Amish communities of Pennsylvania and Ohio, where dogs are often viewed as livestock, not pets.