Couple ordered to pay restitution in animal case

Courtesy photo
On Oct. 30, CPA worker Connie Wells and two children, Elijah and Adam, were killed in a car crash on Highway 19 near Edgewood. Issiebella was taken to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas with serious injuries.  The children has been removed from a home overran with animals.

An animal seizure hearing was held Monday, Nov. 5, in Canton resulting in the SPCA gaining custody of all animals and the owners ordered to pay $31,263.50 in restitution.

The Honorable Sandra Plaster, Justice of the Peace Pct. 2, presided over the case. VZC District Attorney-elect Tonda Curry represented the state.

Judge Plaster explained that the hearing was “to determine the custody of the animals seized Oct. 29 by the SPCA. Other charges forthcoming will be at the discretion of the district attorney’s office.”

Curry presented two exhibits, State Exhibit 1 being a written surrender and release agreement signed by a representative of the SPCA of Texas and the defendants, Jane and Daryl Duff. The defendants answered they signed the document freely and willingly. Curry then presented State Exhibit 2, which was a binder containing the identity of the 111 animals as well as veterinary assessment with their condition at the time of seizure as well as the state’s request for restitution. The restitution amount is $31,263.50.

The restitution does not include room and boarding fees, only the veterinary examination and care as a result of the seizure, explained Curry.

Judge Plaster informed the court that a granddaughter to the defendants that is currently in the hospital receiving care after a car crash, has asked for an animal that was seized. 

 “This is a sad situation with the children,” said Judge Plaster, “the court is praying for the child to get better. But, Mr. and Mrs. Duff, I will tell you with these animals, the way the home was, this is the best interest of the animals and I hope you understand that.”

A SPCA representative gave an update on the animals stating that “they are doing great, we have had animal one die, but we expect a full recovery from the others.”

Crash claims three

The defendants, Jane and Daryll Duff, also had custody of their grandchildren, 10-year-old Elijah Tuma, 12-year-old Issiebella Tuma and 14-year-old Adam Tuma.

According to a CPS report provided to the Canton Herald by an anonymous source, the children made several outcries about alleged abuse at that home and deplorable living conditions from animal waste.  CPS removed the children Oct. 25. On Friday, Oct. 26, the SPCA and Van Zandt Sheriff’s Office seized the animals.

On Oct. 30, CPA worker Connie Wells and two children, Elijah and Adam, were killed in a car crash on Highway 19 near Edgewood. Issiebella was taken to Children’s Medical Center in Dallas with serious injuries.

Animals at Large

Judge Plaster also held a press conference regarding the animals at large in Van Zandt County. Judge Plaster informed the audience that Canton Mayor Lou Ann Everett was in attendance along with the state, represented by Tonda Curry.

“The county does not have an animal control individual that can take care of the animals at large in the county. We do need an animal control. It has been addressed to the commissioners court, but at this time, talking with the court, we do not get a yes or no as to what can be done to take care of these animals. A lot of individuals believe the animals are coming from First Monday

Mayor Everett explained that Canton

“Our city shelter is full. A few years back, we quit taking in animals from the county. Before we did that, we went to the commissioner’s court and went to the cities in the county and asked for them to support the animal shelter. We asked the court to come in at $5,000 per precinct and we did not get a positive response from the county commissioners. A few cities joined in and elected to pay the $20,000 that provides them a place to bring the animals that they catch in the city. Our animal control is running close to $200,000 a year, and that is borne by the taxpayers of the City of Canton,” explained Mayor Everett.

One rural Van Zandt County citizen remarked that she had litters of puppies dropped off before or after First Monday weekends, leading to signs be posted that the area is now under surveillance. She remarked on the poor conditions in Dog Alley at First Monday. 

Mayor Everett explained that the area known as Dog Alley is private property, and not city-owned property and is out of the city’s jurisdiction.

Judge Plaster remarked that she had presided over at least nine animal seizure hearings since she had been in office.

“This is a problem in our county, and hopefully we can come to a solution with the commissioners court.”

Tonda Curry remarked that there was “no evidence that the state or the SPCA has that the dogs that were seized from the defendants had any connection to First Monday. These people were not selling dogs nor were these dogs ever running loose. It was just a situation where they were in a home and not being properly cared for.”