83 animals seized during investigation in Owen County

OWEN COUNTY, Ind. – The Owen County Humane Society is asking for the public’s help in finding new homes for 83 animals that were seized during a criminal investigation in a rural part of the county.

Becky Brown, President of the Owen County Humane Society, says she received a call around 11 a.m. Friday from the Owen County Sheriff’s Office. She says investigators needed her help removing the animals from a property in the 5600 block of Tulip Trace Drive in Poland, Indiana. Investigators were at the property for a theft and burglary investigation when they encountered the large number of animals.

Brown says she arrived to find several campers and various shelters around the property. Then, she says she started opening doors to the campers.

“That’s when you saw the animals in crates and they were stacked on top of each other,” Brown said. “Two deep, top and inside.”

Brown says more than two dozen potbelly pigs were being housed inside the campers with no light or fresh air.

“Literally inches, if not feet of manure, urine-soaked manure that they were standing in,” she said.

In all, Brown and others removed 29 potbellied pigs, two ducks, seven chickens, one rooster, one guinea pig, six dogs, five puppies, seven rabbits, 11 goats, seven cats, and seven kittens from the property.

Brown says she and other animal care workers thought one of the goats was dead when they arrived.

“It blinked once and we immediately, as soon as the seizure order came in, we got that goat and took it directly to the vet,” she said. “And that goat’s walking around.”

Tonia Torres and Evan Vanbibber were arrested on charges including theft and burglary, with animal cruelty added to the list.

Since the seizure, Brown says several area shelter and rescue organizations have stepped in to help care for the animals. But she says that help only goes so far. Four of the rescued pigs are being kept in kennels inside the Humane Society’s garage. Other animals have found temporary homes on area farms and inside the shelter. Brown wants to find permanent homes for all the animals, but she says that’s a tall order on an $8,000 annual budget.

“In order for us to get rescues to take these pigs, we need to vet them,” she said. “And so in order to do that, all 29 pigs, it’s a bill of $4,800 that we just don’t have.”

Brown is hoping anyone who can help with donations or animal care will contact her at the Owen County Humane Society Shelter at (812) 829-6247. Donations can also be made at Edwards Farm Supply in Spencer.

Brown says she also hopes the case will bring more awareness to the problem of animal hoarding.

“There’s definitely a tipping point when you’re managing things well, you’re keeping things clean, your’e getting animals to the vet and then you just take on more than you can handle,” Brown said. “And that’s when you need to reach out for help.”