- West Virginia, USA -
On Tuesday, January 18, Ritchie County Sheriff’s Deputies went to a residence on Fredricks Road in Auburn to follow up on a complaint about an animal.
Before this visit, deputies had been at the residence for previous animal complaints resulting in writing the occupant, 33-yers-old NIKKI LEA HERNER (pictured below) several citations, due to “trespassing livestock.”
On those occasions deputies has also “spoken with her about care for her animals”, reports WBOY.
When deputies returned to the property on January 18, as they were making arrangements to forfeit HERNER’s swine, they saw two dogs who were tied up and they did not have any food or water. The furbabies were malnourished to the extent that their ribs were showing.
Next to them, deputies noticed a deceased dog in a dog box wearing a blue collar.
According to WBOY, where the dogs were found, deputies observed no footprints in the snow, indicating that no one had come to take care of the dogs since the snow arrived on Sunday night, January 16.
As proper transportation for the swine was being organized, workers with the Ritchie County Humane Society only counted 20 swine despite HERNER stating she had approximately 30.
Officers additionally noticed that all the other animals present in and out of the property had no access to food or water.
After learning this, deputies requested and obtained a search warrant and returned to HERNER’s residence the following day.
The search led to the discovery of twelve (12) dead animals inside and outside the property including:
2 Pigs in a cage inside the home
2 Chickens outside
1 Dog outside
1 Pig in a bedroom
1 Dog in a bathroom
1 Goose in one of the bedrooms
1 Chicken in one of the bedrooms
1 Pig “in a tote” inside the home
According to WBOY, deputies reported that the animals living outside of the residence had “began eating snow showing signs of thirst.”
They further reported that the condition in which the animals were being kept were “unlivable and covered in excrement.”
HERNER relinquished all animals, a total of 76, to the Ritchie County Sheriff’s Department including:
1 Black pig
1 Guinea pig whom deputies were unable to catch.
When HERNER was questioned at the sheriff’s department after being arrested, she stated that she “first noticed the deceased animals one month ago,” and that she was “waiting to gather them all up at once to burn them” but that she “had not been staying at the address,” reports WBOY.
HERNER also stated “she did not have running water but had means of collecting rain water for the animals.”
HERNER “understood the animals needed food and water to survive,” and said they “had died due to reasons beyond her control.”
HERNER then stated “she believed a neighbor had poisoned two of her dogs.”
Deputies, however, learned that HERNER “had not made any reports in regard to the poisoning of her animals.”
HERNER has been charged 12 counts of felony animal cruelty and according to online arrest records she is being held in North Central Regional Jail on $12,000 bond.
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