15 dogs found locked in feces covered home, former police office - KLTV.com - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

15 dogs found locked in feces covered home, former police officer charged


A former East Texas police officer is in jail after officials rescued more than a dozen dogs from his home that were living in, as authorities described it, "deplorable conditions."

Terry Tawater, 46, of Palestine is in the Anderson County Jail charged with animal cruelty.

Looking at pictures from inside that home is like a glimpse into the hazardous life of the dogs that once lived there and those that still do.

"Dogs had chewed through the door. They'd chewed through the walls. They'd chewed up mattresses," Sheriff Greg Taylor, said. "And they finally escaped. They chewed their way out of the front door of the house so they could get in and out of the house on their own."

Sheriff Taylor told us they had received several calls over the past few months about animal's living conditions at that home.

"It ranks right up there in the top. I've been in some really vile houses that people have animals, hoarders, that have animals that they urinate and feces in the house for months on end. This was as bad as any that we've seen."

Neighbors like Terri Goodenberger said they knew the couple who lived there liked to take in stray dogs.

"He told me that he had a lot of dogs, that people had driven down the road and dropped a lot down at the end of the road, you know, like stray dogs. And, yes, he would feed them and take care of them," she said.

But nobody had any idea how bad the problem had gotten.

"To this degree, you know, if they can't feed them or take care of themselves, why didn't he ask someone else? You know, why couldn't he call and even ask neighbors? Could they help or take on some dogs themselves," she wondered.

Finally on Monday the sheriff's department got a warrant to enter the home.

"When they entered the house there were dogs everywhere in the house of all shapes sizes and breeds. Feces and urine everywhere, I mean, they'd been in there so long the feces was up the wall," Sheriff Taylor said.

The sheriff's department told us there were at least 15 dogs on that property. They've caught nine and have left dog food below the gate and said they'll continue coming back to try to catch the ones that remain.

The sheriff told us no one was living there except the dogs.

"It's a divorced couple that the house is in dispute and, I believe, he got the house in the divorce and he was supposed to take care of the animals and apparently he is not," he said. "And apparently he has not been living there. No one could live in that."

They were being fed, he said, but beyond that they were left in "deplorable conditions."

Officials said they also found the remains of several dogs that had already died.

Records show Tawater has a history of working for East Texas police departments.

He first worked for the Palestine Police Department from 2007-2009. Tawater then moved to the Oakwood Police Department for just three months. His third stop was at the Jewett Police Department where he worked for almost two years before moving to his final job as an officer at the Coffee City Police Department for four months, ending his service last November.

We contacted those departments to find out more about Tawater's time as an officer. None of them would talk to us about the work Tawater did or the circumstances of his leaving.

A hearing is scheduled for next week for Terri Tawater and after that those dogs could be available for adoption.

This case is still under investigation and more charges could be filed against Tawater or anyone else involved.

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