Investigators find 430 animals at home of two UT employees

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Two UT employees are the subject of an animal cruelty investigation that resulted in the seizure of hundreds of animals from their home in Caldwell County
Monday afternoon.

Joseph Flores and Sarah Arevalo both work as animal attendants in the Animal Resources Center, which oversees the care and use of laboratory animals used as teaching resources and for research on campus. 

Nearly 430 animals, including mice, rats, snakes, dogs, rabbits, goats and pigs, were taken from their home in the 100 block of Misty Drive in Uhland, Texas Monday afternoon. Police said they served the owners a search and seizure warrant after receiving complaints of animal cruelty from neighbors, according to Fox 7 News. 

Flores and Arevalo have both been placed on administrative leave with pay pending the investigation, said J.B. Bird, director of media relations at UT. There is no indication that any University animals are missing, Bird said.

“(UT) President (Gregory) Fenves is going to call for an outside review of the Animal Resource Center to ensure all safety guidelines have been followed,”
Bird said. 

Other animals taken from the property included guinea pigs, ferrets, skinks, bearded dragons, geckos, gerbils, tarantulas, turtles, tortoises, doves, pigeons, ducks and turkeys, the Austin American-Statesman reported. 

Caldwell County Sheriff Daniel Law said charges haven’t been filed yet, but told the Statesman Thursday that criminal charges are likely. 

“Our animal control officer found many different levels of what we would call cruelty to animals,” Law told Fox 7 News. “Not being cared for, food, water, different arrays of health … It’s bad.”

Law said ammonia levels in the house from the animal waste were high enough to harm human health, according to the Statesman.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas, a Dallas-based animal welfare agency, is currently caring for the animals taken from the couple’s property. The SPCA’s Animal Cruelty Unit Investigators said dozens of deceased animals were also found on the property. 

The SPCA currently also has a donation page on their website dedicated to the animals taken from the property. 

“The animals are being examined by medical staff and cared for with the goal of placing them up for adoption when they are ready,” the SPCA wrote on their donation page. “Your gift will help these animals get a second chance.” 

According to KXAN, the couple is expected to appear in court for a custody hearing Monday.