Miller arrested on four additional charges
of animal cruelty
By Sherrie Williams
Minutes after Lee Allen Miller, 52, heard Justice of the Peace Marc Newman’s ruling on the custody of 34 dogs seized from him, he was taken into custody on four Iowa Park Police Department warrants for cruelty to non-livestock animals, fail to provide.
Newman ruled the dogs, mostly Italian Greyhounds, would remain in the custody of the Iowa Park Animal Control.
The hearing was to determine if the dogs would be returned to Miller or given to Iowa Park Animal Control after they were seized Monday, Oct. 19, because of the poor conditions they were kept in.
During the hearing Animal Control Officer Melissa Britt explained to Judge Newman the condition the building the 34 dogs and puppies were housed in as well as the condition of the animals and crates they were kept in.
She said, the building had no lights or ventilation and the odor was so bad when she and the officers were removing the dogs from the 2,700 square foot warehouse, they had to wear masks to breath.
She went on to say, dog feces was found all over the floors of the building as well as in the crates the dogs were kept in.”
They were all filled with feces and there was no food or water in any of these crates,” said Britt.
Britt presented several pictures of the dogs, crates and building to the judge as well as copies of the veterinarian’s reports on each of the dogs.
Miller viewed the vet’s reports and the pictures while Britt presented Animal Control’s case to Judge Newman.
Britt also told Judge Newman 24 of the Italian Greyhounds were stolen from the reclaim center, but 19 had been recovered.
She explained that just after 8 a.m. Thursday the dogs were discovered missing.
Judge Newman questioned how they found the 19 dogs.
Britt explained that the media had publicized the dogs were missing and it had been posted on social media.
She said just before 4 p.m. Thursday they received a call from Midway School in Clay County that several crates with dogs inside had been found on school property and they believed they were the dogs the Iowa Park Police were looking for.
She said some of the students at Midway School heard dogs barking and whimpering and told a teacher. The teacher located seven crates. Dogs were in six of them another was missing the door and there were no dogs inside.
A member of the school’s administration contacted Iowa Park Police Lt. Eaton and told him he had the dogs he believed the Iowa Park police were looking for and he was returning them to Iowa Park Police Department. The administrator loaded the crates in his pickup and transported them back to Iowa Park.
She explained they had heard there was a sighting in Henrietta of some of the five dogs still missing.
Judge Newman then turned his attention to Miller who had been viewing the vet reports and pictures Britt had presented.
“You have had the opportunity to take a look at the photographs. Do these photographs accurately reflect the conditions these animals were in?” Judge Newman asked.
Miller replied, “Some of those photos were taken of locations the dogs were not exposed to. There is one photograph of a crate with no door on it, so there wasn’t a dog inside there. It had been discarded. Some of the photos are inaccurate because there were dogs there in the past, but they weren’t currently in that location.”
Judge Newman said, “Will you be more specific?”
Newman then counted 14 crates displayed in a picture in which the crates were sitting on a trailer.
“If there is a problem with one or two we will stick with the bulk of the circumstances and not worry about the small details. Does this accurately reflect the conditions of which these animals were being kept in?” Judge Newman asked.
Miller said, “No. Not entirely.”
After several minutes of discussion about the pitctures, Judge Newman asked Miller what his food bill is daily. Miller replied about $35 a day.
Pointing to the pictures Judge Newman said one thing he didn’t notice was water available.
Miller said, “They have been let out three times a day and fed and watered three times a day. About an hour and a half each time. “
Britt told Judge Newman there was actually one crate that had water in it.
“It was in a silver pail that hung off the gate. It was the only one that had water in it,” she said as she pulled a picture from the stack and handed it to the Judge.
Miller said, “That photo is not accurate. The only bowl that was inside the crate was food. It should have been empty. It was tampered with or whatever. That photograph is not accurate.”
Newman asked which animal was in the crate and Britt said one of the Greyhounds.
“Which Greyhound”” Miller asked.
After sorting through paper work Britt said it was carrier #16 which had a white with brown Greyhound in it.
Britt told Judge Newman she had a thumb drive with pictures of every single crate and other pictures taken in the property.
Newman asked Miller if he had any interest in seeing the pictures on the drive.
Miller said, “Yes. She is going to have to show me the dog that was in that crate.”
Judge Newman displayed the pictures and pointed out a photo that displayed the water bowl in question seen in the earlier printed photo. Judge Newman said it looked like water and enlarged the photo. Miller asked if there was a more accurate picture.
Judge Newman then questioned Miller about letting the dogs out to exercise.
“The dogs were taken out at least an hour and a half every day?” Judge Newman asked.
Miller replied “Three times a day.”
“All at the same time?” Judge Newman asked.
“”No.” Miller said. “They were taken out in pairs, 4 to 5:30 a.m., 4 to 5:30 p.m., and at night 10 to 11:30 p.m. sometimes midnight.”
“That is 34 animals. I don’t believe that adds up” Judge Newman said.
“Oh you thought I said two at a time. Well not two at a time. But, yeah they were all out,” Miller said.
“That’s 17 pairs of animals.” Judge Newman said.
After additional comments from Judge Newman, Miller interrupted and said, “I wasn’t clear. They had food and water three times a day.”
Miller then questioned the age of the pictures.
Judge Newman then asked questions about the pens and crates the dogs were kept in.
Britt explained that the dogs the officer observed outside were in what Miller called an exercise pen.
After additional conversation, Miller commented that if the dogs were seized because they were outside and the temperatures were in the 60s at night and high in the 80s everyone might fear they could lose their dogs if they leave them out in 60 degree weather.
“They don’t have to fear that if they are kept in trophy conditions with food and water available,” said Judge Newman.
“So you have made up your mind?” Miller asked.
“You haven’t offered anything yet,” Judge Newman.
“It says in the vet report there are 12 in fair condition, eight in good condition, and others not marked. How can you seize dogs when they are in fair condition your honor?” said Miller
“These dogs were kept in unsanitary conditions,” said Judge Newman.
Miller said, “I think if I took some of the dogs for an independent review by my veterinarian they would be in excellent condition.”
He went on to say his top show dogs that have been out of his custody for a while but are genetically superior would be in great condition.
Britt explained that the vet also discovered a firmness over the ribs on both the left and right side and a nodule in the mammary gland, and swollen spleen in one of the Ridgebacks.
She went on to say another Ridgeback had a fractured canine and missing teeth. Also, the two Boston Terriers teeth were worn down to the growth line and both had haze on their eyes. One of the Italian Greyhounds had a coddle right and left mammary mass along both chains. as well as fractured teeth and missing teeth.
Another Italian Greyhound had multiple mammary tumors and missing teeth.
Another Italian Greyhound had a growth on the right carpus and other masses as well as missing teeth and is pregnant. Her age was estimated as 10 plus years old.
Britt said the nails on all the dogs were overgrown.
“I am only aware of one that has breast cancer,” Miller said. “I wasn’t aware of a second case.”
Miller argued some of the dogs were old and he keeps for sentimental reasons.
“I promise those dogs were taken care of and they were loved. I spent countless hours every day,” said Miller.
Judge Newman then asked why some had broken teeth.
“Show me a 70 year-old man who isn’t wearing dentures. Same thing your honor,” said Miller.
“Most 70 year-old men don’t have broken teeth still in their head,” Judge Newman replied.
“Given the conditions these animals were found in, if you yourself were kept under those conditions would you consider that cruel and unusual?” Judge Newman asked.
“No,” said Miller.
“No place to go to the bathroom?” added Judge Newman.
“I am a sentient person. They are not sentient,” said Miller.
“Does that give them the entitlement to greater or lesser care than sentient beings?” Judge Newman asked.
“Less.” Said Miller.
Judge Newman then announced the court’s decision was to grant custody of the animals seized to the Iowa Park Animal Reclaim Center.
“I have a question. You announced your decision about three seconds after I said animals do not enjoy the same rights as humans,” said Miller. I said equal.”
“No sir you did not say that. I asked you if they are entitled to the same or lesser care from sentient beings that have control of them since they are not sentient,” said Judge Newman.
“With all due respect. You are judging them and you are pretending like they have the same rights and the same level of care as humans,” argued Miller. “The radical left. That’s an argument of theirs.”
Judge Newman said, “I don’t think you will find me in amongst them.”
Miller continued, “You just used the same logic your honor.”
Judge Newman said. “No I used the logic that a sentient being can think and reason and they are not ambulatory and able to provide. Since they are not, if you are going to have ownership you have a higher degree of care required for them than you would to yourself, because you are able to care for yourself.”
Miller interrupted and said, “You are giving ammunition to the left.”
“Oh that is horse hockey,” replied Judge Newman.
You just said an animal deserves more care than a human,” Miller said.
“If you are going to own an animal you are responsible for them,” Newman replied.
Miller tried to continue to argue animal versus human rights as the judge started to figure the City of Iowa Park’s expenses up to this point.
Newman then explained that Miller would have 10 calendar days to appeal his decision to a Wichita County Court.
If Miller appeals he will have to put up a $2,950 appeal bond, the amount the City of Iowa Park’s Animal Control has been out of pocket since seizing the dogs, at Judge Newman’s office.
Miller left the courtroom and was followed by Iowa Park Police officers to an area away from the crowd that had just left the courtroom and was placed into custody on four warrants for animal cruelty.
According to Iowa Park Police Lt. Jimmy Eaton, additional charges could be added by the district attorney’s office.
According to the warrants, at 11:58 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 17, Officer Matt Ohm, who served over 10 years as Iowa Park Animal Control Officer before becoming a police officer, observed four small dogs in a very small homemade wire cage at 201 South Bond. He observed the pen approximately 3x3 foot in size with an open top, held one food bowl with no food and a small water bowl attached to the side of the cage with dirty unclean water and there was no shelter for the dogs to take cover.
While checking on the dogs he heard barking coming from inside a shop on the property. He noticed a door open three to four inches and as he approached it he was taken by a pungent odor of animal feces and urine emitting from inside the building, according to the warrant.
The dogs were seized by warrant Monday, Oct. 19, and a temporary shelter was quickly constructed to house the dogs while in Iowa Park Animal Control custody.
Tonya Yammen DVM checked each of the dogs.
Several city employees and many volunteers bathed and groomed the dogs.
Just after 8 a.m. Thursday it was discovered 24 of the dogs were missing and graffiti had been spray painted on a Water’s Ag container that had been placed at the temporary shelter site where the dogs were being kept to hold supplies.
The graffiti was large red letters reading PETA WF.
Because the location is owned by the city, but outside the city limits, the Wichita County Sheriff’s Office was called to investigate the missing dogs.
During a press conference held at the Wichita County Court House Friday morning, Sheriff David Duke announced Lee Allen Miller, 52, had been taken into custody in Iowa Park Thursday afternoon and charged with tampering with evidence.
Duke explained the dogs had been found by a teacher at Midway School in Clay County where Miller is employed as a teacher.
Iowa Park Police Department had also received a call from a citizen that between 4:30 and 5 a.m. she had observed a white Chevrolet pickup parked in the ditch near the temporary shelter with no lights on and no one around it, according to the police blotter report.
During the investigation it was learned Miller drove a white pickup and it was observed by Midway students and teachers parked near a field at the school before 8 a.m. that morning.
During the news conference Iowa Park Police Chief Robert Johnson announced he wanted people to know the Wichita Falls PETA group had been in contact with him and were not involved in the dog’s disappearance. They were even offering a reward for information about the dog’s location.
The dogs remain in animal control custody.
The seized dogs are not available for adoption at this time.
However, several dogs that were turned over to Iowa Park animal control by a family member are available for adoption.
More information about needs, volunteers and dogs available for adoption can be found on the City of Iowa Park’s website or by contacting the Iowa Park Police Department.