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A Madison County Sheriff's Office investigation is underway after neighbors in New Market said a dead dog was found in a trash-filled house.
Neighbors shared pictures of the inside of the house filled with trash. Now, the sheriff's office says the former owners could face felony charges.
Neighbors say a cleaning crew found at least one dead dog covered in trash when clearing out the house on Meadow Green Drive.
"They found the crate with the dead dog in it covered in trash. So, it could have been in those pictures and we just couldn't see it because it was covered up," said Bud Gambrell, who lives in the neighborhood.
Mike Fritz, Madison County Animal Control Director, said those claims were enough to get him out to the house less than a day after he learned about the situation.
"It appears there is a possibility these animals had been abandoned for possibly ten months," he said.
Animal Control, along with the Madison County Sheriff's Office, said if the animals were abandoned, then the former owners are facing felony animal cruelty charges. Neighbors say that needs to happen.
"It makes me sick to think that dog was trapped in that crate and couldn't get out to fend for himself," Gambrell said.
Fritz said he's never seen anything like this in the nearly three decades he's worked for animal control, but he wants all animal owners to know this is not acceptable.
"You take on the responsibility to own a pet, regardless, dog, cat, livestock, whatever. That's a responsibility you take on yourself, and you can't just walk away from it," he said.
The Madison County Sheriff's Office said this is an active investigation. If the former owners are convicted of felony animal cruelty, then they could face up to 10 years in prison and a $5,000 fine, according to investigators.
"It's such a heinous thing to do. Surely, thank God, you don't hear about things like this very often. The whole point on this whole thing is it wasn't about the new owner making it a mess. For me, it was the old owner left it in such a mess," Gambrell said.
The home was recently bought by an investment company in Owens Cross Roads after the former owners abandoned it. The new owners previously had a health code violation, but the problem was corrected. The sheriff's office said only the old owners could face criminal charges.