95 animals removed from rural home

Wanda Russell
Wanda Russell
95 animals removed from rural home
By: CJ Cassidy
BUTLER COUNTY, MO -- Sheriff's deputies and investigators with the Humane Society of Missouri rescue 79 dogs, 12 cats and 4 rabbits all from a single home - after neighbors call in complaints.
Workers with the Humane Society say the animals show varying signs of abuse and neglect, and need treatment immediately.  They will stay in Saint Louis, while their owner waits for a disposition hearing in Butler County Circuit Court.
As investigators loaded the animals into trucks to begin their trip to safety, 60-year-old Wanda Russell's neighbors watched in silence.  "Too many animals. She beats them with a stick, you see her sometimes and watch her mistreat them if they get barking too much," neighbor James Anderson says.
Investigators say they're thankful neighbors called.  "She genuinely loves her animals. She thinks she's doing the best for her animals. Unfortunately she can't physically or financially care for her animals the way the law requires," Investigator Kyle Held with the Humane Society says.
If you think the story sounds familiar, that's because rescue crews took away nearly sixty abused and neglected dogs two years ago.  At that time, sheriff's deputies found dogs chained inside and outside her home. Many were suffering from severe diarrhea and others appeared to be starving.
Back then, the accused animal hoarder underwent an evaluation at the Farmington mental health facility. Russell's also been convicted of animal cruelty in Florida.
"It's pretty typical for a hoarder situation," Held points out.  "We tried to tell her she's got too many dogs, and she says nah, I ain't got too many dogs," Anderson says.
Now he hopes the story ends here and doesn't think he could stand to see it happen again. "It's really sad, and my wife she cries a lot," he says.
After watching investigators with the Humane Society take away her pets, Wanda Russell also broke down.  "I need some help. Please people you gotta help me get those babies back! I promised these people I would take care of these babies, I took care of them all summer," she says.
As she gives us a tour of her backyard where she housed the animals, Russell explains what she's talking about.  "These dogs belong to guys that went over to Iraq to fight the war, and I was trying to be good to them. I was trying to help them because the kennels only hold animals for two weeks,' she says.
Investigators point out Russell simply can't afford to care for them all.  Russell admits the kennels in her backyard were hardly warm and comfortable, but she claims she just needs a little extra help.  "I go through about 12 hundred pounds of dog food a month. This is how I was making my living to help me pay my bills. Now I just want my animals back," she says.
Investigators say that's up to the courts to decide.  Russell refused to show us paperwork proving she was holding the dogs for their owners.