Officials Investigate Animal Rescue
An investigation is underway in regards to conditions at an animal rescue in Wetzel County. Katrina Marie Morgan, proprietor of Hope Valley Rescue, was served Feb. 1 by the Wetzel County Sheriff’s Office with a warning notification of violation of anti-cruelty laws.
According to court documents at the Wetzel County Magistrate Office, Morgan, of Burton, was found to be cruelly mistreating and neglecting animals by failing to properly clean up dog and other animal feces. Conditions were allegedly found to be unsafe for the animals.
According to the documents, approximately 20 dogs — along with goats, ponies, and chickens — were discovered on the premises of about two acres where animal feces had not been cleaned. It was discovered that some of the dogs, inside of the house, were staying in unfit conditions, where feces had not been removed. The sheriff’s department alleged that Morgan was leaving animals unattended for long periods of time.
A civil suit was filed against Morgan in Wetzel County Magistrate Court by Deputy Dustin Bickerstaff of the Wetzel County Sheriff’s Office. Bickerstaff also serves as the county’s humane officer. A hearing was held on Feb. 8, before Magistrate Judith Goontz. A civil judgement for the plaintiff was ordered after Morgan agreed to immediately surrender and forfeit the animals to Bickerstaff for distribution, according to law.
The defendant did not have to post a required bond in the case as a joint motion to dispense the requirement was granted by Magistrate Goontz. Morgan was assessed court costs of $50.
There were a total of 37 dogs seized by local law enforcement on Feb. 1, 13 of which were taken to Ohio County for treatment for Parvo and other underlying conditions. The remaining dogs were taken to the Wetzel County Animal Shelter and other local area treatment facilities. At this point some have been fostered out. According to a spokesperson at one of the treatment facilities, pups have been discharged after recovering. As of this writing there are still four pups fighting to recover, and the bills have reached over $15,000.
According to a statement in the court documents, a couple reported that they adopted two puppies from Hope Valley Rescue; the couple provided the statement to support the suit against Morgan.
The couple wrote that the puppies were Pit Bull/Boxer mix and were from a rescue litter. The couple said their daughter had met with a Hope Valley Rescue representative in Wileyville, at the gas station. The meeting request was at the request of Hope Valley Rescue, which said their vehicle had been involved in an accident. Hope Valley Rescue said another individual would be bringing the puppy.
The daughter of the couple paid the agreed fee of $100 and signed the adoption contract. She then received the pup. The couple said the pup was thin, and its ribs were showing. Otherwise it appeared to be love-able and docile.
The next day, the couple decided to adopt the remaining dog, a brown male pup. The couple’s oldest daughter met with Hope Valley at the same location and paid the $100, but was not asked to sign a contract. She said the pup was thin and malnourished while showing signs of illness and low weight.
A few days later, on Jan. 6, both pups began showing signs of illness such as vomiting, diarrhea, lethargy and loss of appetite. The couple stated they requested records of shots from Hope Valley and received a computer screen picture that alleged they were vaccinated and were given worm medicine. However, the couple didn’t believe that to be the case.
The worst case pup was taken to Parkersburg and tested positive for Parvo. On Jan. 9, both pups were taken to a Mineral Wells vet clinic for extensive, in-patient treatment. Both dogs had Parvo. The female pup recovered, but the male passed away. Records show $990.15 was paid to the clinic for the treatment of the pups.
According to Wetzel County Prosecutor Tim Haught, the current case between Hope Valley and the sheriff’s office is a civil suit that resulted in the defendant Katrina Morgan, agreeing to the seizure and forfeit of 37 dogs to the humane officer. Haught stated the case remains under investigation, and criminal charges could still be filed.
Hope Valley Rescue is also no longer in operation.
In a Feb. 12 social media post, the Wetzel County Animal Shelter requested donations for the Parvo treatment of 13 puppies. The shelter said the pups were seized by law enforcement, along with 24 other dogs. The shelter said the pups were hospitalized on Feb. 1, straight from the seizure. The shelter mentioned the four remaining pups that are “so close to recovery.” Individuals are asked to donate toward the recovery costs by calling Town and Country veterinary hospital in Wheeling, West Virginia. The number is 304-242-9575. Folks can request to donate toward the “Wetzel County Parvo Puppies” bill.
Folks can also donate by visiting www.wetzelpets.com/donate