FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE November 3, 2010
1,077 Neglected Animals cruelly treated, jury says
A jury found today that 1,077 animals rescued from a home in east Harris County were cruelly treated by their owners, Juan and Berta Gracia, of Highlands, Texas. The animals consisted mostly of exotic birds, hamsters, and rabbits.
The jury found that one dog, which was the family pet, was not cruelly treated.
Linda Geffin, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Unit for the office of Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan, represented the state in the proceeding held in County Civil Court at Law Number Two before Judge Jacqueline Lucci Smith. The case was originally filed in Justice of the Peace court but was appealed by the Gracias after J.P. Armando Rodriguez found that the animals had been cruelly treated and ordered the owners to pay the Houston SPCA $18,166.00 for medical and housing costs.
“These animals were rescued from deplorable, horrific conditions, and many lacked proper food and shelter as required by law,” Geffin said. “The Gracias’ attorney said they treated these animals like their children; however, the animals did not have adequate medical care, food, shelter, or water.”
Evidence from the trial showed that the cages that housed the animals were lined with waste, spider webs and old food. Hundreds of animals were without water and food. Some of the animals were dead or close to dying.
Jennifer Gaut, Martin Mayo, and Leira Moreno Gracias represented the Gracias. The attorneys claimed that the standard of care is different for animals owned by breeders than for regular pet owners.
Geffin said that the County Attorney’s investigation found the Gracias were breeding the animals for sale at flea markets. County Attorney Vince Ryan said, “This case represents our office’s continuing commitment to the protection of animals from abuse and neglect.”