Authorities Expect Charges Against Couple Accused of Animal Neglect

Authorities Expect Charges Against Couple Accused of Animal Neglect
By:  Carly O’Keefe

Union County, IL -- Authorities confiscated 65 animals in various stages of neglect from a rural Union County residence and an investigation is in the works involving a child living in the same home.

Early Wednesday, deputies and animal control officers searched the home of Mike and Deborah Elsner and found the home and acreage over-run with animals apparently suffering from neglect.

"The first thing we encountered when we arrived was a dying dog in the back yard that appeared to be dead, it wasn't until we started taking its picture that it's eye moved and we realized it was really alive," said Union County Animal Control Officer Donna Hawk.

When authorities arrived they found 21 horses, malnourished, some medically neglected, and inside the house a veritable menagerie with dogs, cats, birds, even squirrels. all of which have been rescued.

"Some of the medical situations we encountered the overall care, lack of proper food, we encountered throughout," said Hawk.

Union County Animal Control officials have been watching the property since last summer. An anonymous tip claiming neglect prompted a search of the home, but officials say they had no idea that there were quite so many animals living inside.

"Actually we did not realize all the animals were inside the basement, we'd been monitoring the animals outside," said Hawk.

The Elsners face possible felony charges for housing so many animals in their home without being a licensed kennel and first and foremost, for failing to take care of the animals in their possession.

“Aggravated cruel treatment to animals means there's an animal that's either seriously injured or has died as a result of lack of care or cruel treatment. It appears we have some animals in that condition,” said Union County State ’s Attorney Allen James.

The Department of Children and Family Services has also gotten involved because officials say a child was also living in the home with all those animals.

"There was feces throughout the home, and poor care, and it was just deplorable living conditions in which a child was living,” said James.

The child remains home, but all of the animals have been removed. But with such a large number of displaced cats, dogs, birds and horses, officials will work through the night to find temporary homes.

“Every one of them has to be processed, and we have to provide them with medical care tonight, so it's going to be a long night,” said Hawk.

One horse sustained a leg injury that was not cared for and was euthanized Wednesday night. A kitten was also put down because neglect of medical attention had caused such severe damage. James says he expects at least three counts of aggravated cruel treatment of animals to come out of this investigation, but no charges were filed Wednesday.         

We knocked on the door to get the Elsners' side of the story, and while the lights were on inside the home and deputies said they were home, there was no answer.