PASS CHRISTIAN, Miss. (WLOX) – We’re learning more about the conditions that led to the arrest of a Pass Christian couple on 70 counts of animal cruelty.
According to documents obtained by WLOX, a complaint from a resident staying in a nearby AirBnB led animal control officers to the home of Richard and Ethel Ross at 917 E. 2nd Street.
According to the search warrant executed on March 10th, authorities found a total of 70 animals inside the house, including 36 retriever mixes, 22 Alaskan Husky mixes, eight shepherd mixes, one hound mix, one Bassett hound mix, one American blue heeler mix, and one cat.
According to the court records, animal control was first notified on March 1st, after a neighbor reported multiple dogs being kept inside the home without being let out. That resident told authorities she had not seen any dogs in an entire month of living near the Ross house.
Officers went to the home and, upon immediate arrival, noted dog feces that had been pushed out of the house’s front door. The overwhelming smell of dog feces coming through the door was also present, said the affidavit.
When the officer knocked on the door, he said he heard two dogs bark, which was followed by multiple barks and what sounded as if someone was moving inside the home. The officer said he then went to the home’s backyard, which was fenced-in and overgrown with grass growing 2-3 feet tall. Officers also reported no evidence that any animals had been let out to exercise either.
A police officer who was at the scene on March 1st said the same conditions, which violate a city ordinance, were still present again on March 10th when he returned to the property. That’s when he requested and was granted a warrant to search the home and seize any animals found to be living in “these poor and harmful conditions,” states the affidavit.
The officers returned to the house on March 10th to execute the search warrant. One officer reported making contact with Richard Ross, who said there were only seven dogs inside. The officer gave Ross the option of letting authorities inside to observe the dogs or, with his permission, bringing all the dogs outside in the backyard so they could be seen.
The officer said Ross decided to bring one dog in the backyard and attempted to drag another one out of the house. The second dog appeared very skittish and was trying to get back inside the residence, noted the officer. The dog was also covered in feces, said the officer. Ross then told police that he was unable to retrieve any other dogs.
Inside the home, officers reported conditions that were unsafe and hazardous, requiring them to don hazmat suits and oxygen masks to remove the animals from the home.
They then quickly realized additional personnel would be needed due to the number of animals being kept and confined inside the house. Animal control officers from the Humane Society of South Mississippi, Long Beach and Harrison County Sheriff’s Office, as well as firefighters from Pass Christian Fire Department, were then brought in to assist Pass Christian.
According to one of the detectives who helped with the removal of the animals, he found no signs indicating the animals were being allowed out of the home and observed the dogs to be skittish and fearful of leaving the house.
After four hours, all 70 animals had been removed from the house. They were then taken to HSSM in Gulfport to be checked out. Several of the animals were pregnant and one gave birth to nine puppies the day after the animals were removed from the house, said Pass Christian Police Chief Daren Freeman.
“Its horrific. I’ve been doing this for 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like this. We are thoroughly investigating it and we take all incidents like this very serious,” said Freeman.
Both Richard and Ethel Ross were arrested and charged with 70 counts of animal cruelty. On March 16, judgments were signed by both Richard and Ethel Ross agreeing under oath to terminate their rights to all of the animals involved.
The couple were initially set to appear in court on March 23 for trial but had not yet obtained counsel. Once advised of that, the City Judge appointed an attorney to represent the couple and reset the court date for April 6, 2022.
All of the animals are now in the custody of HSSM, who is overwhelmed due to this seizure and other recent ones in Harrison County. In addition to looking for homes for the animals, they are also taking donations of money and pet supplies. For more information on how to help, contact HSSM at 228-822-3802.
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