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Wild animals kept in cruel conditions says county

By Courtney Lane - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

MARION COUNTY, TX (KLTV) - An East Texas woman says she used to work in the circus but has now been caught with a dozen wild animals, authorities say, she failed to register and are living in cramped, cruel conditions.

The menagerie was discovered along Lewis Chapel Road on the north end of Marion County. Now, Marion County officials are trying to save the animals before it is too late.

Big cats, like tigers and cougars, were confined to travel-sized cages.

"This [is the] 10-acre mud pit she calls an exhibition arena," said William Gleason, the Marion County District Attorney.

Picture show a miniature horse stuffed into a dog carrier.

"I'm going to say he was probably transported that way," said Caroline Wedding, with the Marion County Humane Society.

Gleason says Barbara Hoffman faces a slew of charges.

"The cats have been enclosed in these small travel cages for over a month out there when the temperatures were below freezing for a solid week," said Gleason. "The lion, she had died, evidently, within the last week or so and was hastily buried about the time we went out there."

D.A. William Gleason says Hoffman failed to register the wild animals and did not provide veterinarian records or have insurance.

"They have to be insured 100,000 per cat per occurrence, so baseline, we're talking over a million dollars in insurance and she hasn't showed us any of that," said Gleason.

Hoffman did not want her face shown but told authorities she used to work in the circus business and is a trainer.

"All I've done is fight for these animals ever since my husband passed away," she said.

And, it's not just big cats. Hoffman has horses, birds, boa constrictors, a monkey, cats and dogs - you name it and she is keeping it. The Marion County Humane Society says they need to be rescued.

"The food was contaminated...even though some may not have been ill at this moment, if this continues, they will be," said Wedding.

So, now it's a race of time, not only to try and seize the animals, but find rescue groups who can care for them.

Marion County officials say Hoffman came from Edinburg, Texas, and before that Florida.

County authorities have sent in a veterinarian to evaluate and are waiting on that report to come back. We will of course keep you updated on what happens to the animals.

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