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Woman receives probation for animal abuse | Reptiles, rodents not protected by felony charge

Woman receives probation for animal abuse | Reptiles, rodents not protected by felony charge

June 25th, 2019 by Lori Dunn and Lynn LaRowe in Texarkana News
Tammy Virgin with Hochatown Wildlife Rescue shows off Tina the Tegu lizard to a visitor. Tina is one of about 30 animals at the rescue that were taken during a Miller County animal neglect case earlier this month.

Tammy Virgin with Hochatown Wildlife Rescue shows off...

Photo by Lori Dunn /Texarkana Gazette.

A woman charged with 10 counts of animal abuse of numerous reptiles and other animals, has pleaded guilty in Miller County District Court.

Franziska D. Santifer, 29, pleaded guilty Monday and received one-year probation, said Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell.

Santifer must forfeit all of her animals with the exception of one Great Dane, which she provided documentation for as a service animal, Mitchell said. Santifer must also undergo evaluation at a local counseling and mental health center and comply with any and all counseling as recommended and also cannot own or possess any animal during the period of probation, Mitchell said.

The charges were misdemeanors. The only animals that qualify for felony animal cruelty in Arkansas are dogs, cats and horses. Reptiles and rodents are not protected by a felony charge, Mitchell said.

Sheriff's deputies had received some calls from concerned citizens about the animals, and investigators served a search warrant April 9 at the residence in the 10700 block of U.S. Highway 82, according to an arrest affidavit.

Volunteers from local animal rescues took the lead on removing the animals from the home and taking care of them.

About 260 rats were seized along with 10 pythons, several other snakes, a bearded dragon, a gecko, four hamsters, two rabbits, a ferret and several birds. Six dogs, two puppies and a kitten were also among the animals seized from the home.

The majority of the animals were living in their own feces and urine, according to the affidavit. Several dead snakes were found inside containers.

Many of the reptiles are being cared for at Hochatown, Okla., Petting Zoo and Rescue Center and are expected to recover.

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