Judge Orders Return Of 252 Animals: "No Credible Evidence" of Abuse

Categories: Animals

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Humane Society of Missouri
One of the more troubling instances of mass animal abuse reported in Missouri has taken a turn for the confusing.

Back in November Daily RFT reported on the apparent rescue of 252 animals -- 192 rabbits, 25 goats, 21 chickens, 10 cats, 4 dogs and a duck -- from a property near St. Clair.

Describing living conditions as overwhelmed with feces and neglect, the Humane Society of Missouri touted the rescue and its cooperation with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office, which charged Velma Muessemeyer, 75, with 21 counts of animal abuse.

But a December 19 ruling by a Franklin County associate circuit judge has thrown a wrench into that narrative: Judge David Tobben found the civil side of this case unsubstantiated and ordered that all 252 animals be returned to Muessemeyer. Criminal charges are still pending.

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HSMO
Rabbits on Muessemeyer's property were housed in cages steeped in feces, says the Humane Society.

HSMO spokeswoman Jeane Jae says the organization plans to file suit to retain custody "to ensure the welfare of these animals."

See also: Stray Rescue Asks St. Louis for Help as Homeless Dogs, Cats Freeze to Death

This isn't the first time the Humane Society has dealt with Muessemeyer. It rescued over 150 animals from her property in 2010. At the time, Franklin County prosecutors agreed to drop animal-abuse charges if she agreed to probation and to own no animals other than two dogs, a guinea pig and a few others. That probationary period ended in 2012.

But in his December ruling, Judge Tobben concluded from the evidence that the property was just very, very messy. From his ruling:

The State's evidence tended to show that Mrs. Muessemeyer's property is very unkempt. If the issue were the propriety of taking children into custody based on the condition of the property, there is no question in the court's mind that the condition of the property, especially the house, justifies such action. The issue is not neglect of children however, it is neglect of animals.

Statements from the Humane Society made after the November rescue of the animals, however, described contaminated drinking water and overcrowded rabbit cages with piles of feces more than a foot deep.

"I think what was initially leaked about the case was wrong," says Taylor Goodale, Muessemeyer's attorney.

Continue reading for more from Muessemeyer's attorney, who is trying to save her from criminal charges.

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31 comments
Amy L Latham
Amy L Latham

I am sad for my state. Ppl will do anything to make a buck.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

We have a process using judges to keep unelected bureaucrats from running amuck with a power trip. why is following the constitutional guarantees so outrageous to some? Yes, I am against animal cruelty, but this person would not escape with all these animals in the time it would take to get a search warrant and report back the findings to the judge for proper legal action. Even if that was the fear, an officer could remain on the property until the judge ruled.

Cliff Johnson
Cliff Johnson

I've seen that place for years. It is not that bad.

Adm Greg Brown
Adm Greg Brown

Missouri: 1st in puppy mills, 1st in animal abuse!

Anne Baker
Anne Baker

The person has 252 animals. That in itself is abuse. Holy cow.

Jamie Smith
Jamie Smith

he's an idiot, they had plenty of proof and she had been convicted of abuse and neglect before and only got probation then....

Jimmie Thomptson
Jimmie Thomptson

most likely the same judge that puts the thugs right back out on the streets...

Shawnette Thebeau
Shawnette Thebeau

Missouri is SO backwards in so many ways. Lately I'm ashamed to say I'm from this state.

Mark Swain
Mark Swain

The Judge is obviously in the pocket of the breeding industry which runs rampant in the MO

Tony Groeblinghoff
Tony Groeblinghoff

I thought you always needed proof of abuse? Does the humane society not need proof to take your pets? I am confused.

Sherry Moore
Sherry Moore

Lately it seems the only times Missouri makes the news, are the times we deserve to be embarrassed. ..

Meagan Starwalt
Meagan Starwalt

I agree let's lock the judge in a cage with his shit!!!

Kristy Lytle
Kristy Lytle

This judge needs a wake up call... or a different job.

Amanda Kenney
Amanda Kenney

I don't understand how somewhere unfit for children could possibly be ok for 252 animals, most of which are conceivably meant to be pets. At least they aren't there now with this horrible weather!

Mindy Johnson
Mindy Johnson

The judge should spend some time sleeping in his own feces and drinking contaminated water.....then we can explain to him it isn't neglect, it's just messy.

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

If they had plenty of evidence, it should have been simple to show the judge the evidence for a quick restraining order to seize the animals. Why is following the legal procedures so difficult of a concept?

JamesMadison
JamesMadison topcommenter

Wonderful. Let's call people names when they disagree with us. Very productive.

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