JEFFERSON, Ark. (KTHV) - James and Tara Best are behind "Busy B Pets" on Mail Route Road in Jefferson. They pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty citations Friday morning. This comes after 183 animals were seized from their property on Thursday.
"It's just sad," said Juanita Daniels, who lives next door to the Best family. "I knew they had a lot of dogs, but I never saw anything that would lead me to believe that they were neglected."
Daniels said she knew her neighbors were selling puppies because people would stop by her house asking for the location of the kennel. Major Lafayette Woods says a couple people who went there to buy animals reported what they saw to the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office.
"We commend those individuals who called in because, had they not called, we would have very well not known about that," said Woods. "We fully anticipate the charge to be upgraded based on some of the animals there on the property. Likely, that they will be upgraded to a felony charge aggravated cruelty to animals."
Woods said none of them appear to have been stolen, but animal control officials said condition of some of the animals they found were saddening.
"On a body score of 1 to 9--nine being the fattest dog and one being the skinniest, most emaciated--this was a one," Saline County Humane Society employee Julie Patton said, holding up a small dog.
Woods added that the first complaint came in about a month ago. About a handful of others trickled in after that. He says now, many people are calling to see if their lost dogs turned up in this raid. Woods says, at this time, it does not look like any of the dogs were stolen. The investigation continues.
"We want to send a message out," said Woods. "If you're out there hoarding animals, overpopulating animals, not providing them with the necessary nutrients and treatment they need, we're going to take action."
James and Tara Best could still face criminal charges from this. If they want the animals back, they have 15 days to file a petition and have to pay $90,000 dollars. That's how much it was determined it would take to care for all the animals.
Area veterinarians and shelters are working with county officials to take care of the seized animals. No adoption proceedings can begin for at least few weeks while the case works through the courts.
The shelter is seeking donations for food, blankets, paper towels, and chew toys. They may also need more volunteers in the future, so residents are encouraged to call (501)557-5518 for more information.