Sean Kelsey Stepp, 25, of 108 Daisy St., was charged by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office with aggravated cruelty to animals and abandonment of domesticated animals, both felonies.
Clara Dianna Keller, 31, also of 108 Daisy St., was arrested on those charges. Keller was released on bond on Wednesday and said the death of the dogs — which she and Stepp had kept for years — was not intentional.
Stepp and Keller lived together at 303 Tubman Way in Tilton, where a sheriff’s office incident report states the dogs were found dead on Aug. 4. Their landlord at the time said they were being evicted when the dogs died, but Keller said she and Stepp were planning to move anyway and it was during the move out of the double-wide mobile home when the dogs perished.
“Everyone’s trying to say that we just packed up and moved and left them there,” Keller said on Wednesday. “That’s not how it happened at all ... I know it’s a bad situation, but we didn’t just leave our dogs and we didn’t just kill ’em.”
Keller explained the dogs were kept on opposite ends of a “runner”-type chain during their stay at Tubman Way, but said someone had tied them up closer together while the couple was in the process of moving and the dogs became entangled and could not reach their food and water.
Stepp was released on Wednesday on a $3,000 bond, and did not immediately return a phone call on Thursday.
Two dogs that died at a south Whitfield County residence while their owners were moving after an eviction were not abandoned, a woman charged with aggravated cruelty to animals said.
Clara Dianna Keller, 31, of 108 Daisy St. in Calhoun, was also charged Tuesday by the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office with abandonment of domesticated animals. Both charges are felonies.
Keller said the dogs belonged to her and her boyfriend, who was not charged. The landlord of the property at 303 Tubman Way in the Tilton community, Delores McGuire, contacted the sheriff’s office on Aug. 4 when a meter reader called to tell her there were two dead dogs on the property. An officer said in an incident report the dogs were “still on chains, deceased.”
“The next door neighbor stated she saw (Keller’s boyfriend) at the residence last on (Aug. 1) retrieving his belongings,” the report states. “(The neighbor) stated she noticed the dogs were still alive on (Aug. 2), but was not sure if she saw them alive on (Aug. 3) or not.”
Keller became tearful on Wednesday, saying she began to piece together the story after she was released from the Whitfield County jail on a $3,000 bond earlier in the day.
“(The dogs) were both of ours,” she said of her boyfriend. “We were moving first, then (the landlord) went and got an eviction notice.”
Asked if she didn’t have a place to take the dogs, she said, “This is how it went — we were in the process of moving. Our neighbor, if we were moving something at night, he would help us with the dogs. We had gotten all of our stuff out of the house. We had one load left on the back of the truck, and (the boyfriend) was going to get our dogs. The landlord called me and said that our dogs were dead.”
Keller said her boyfriend had just been there getting a load of belongings and the dogs were “fine” at that point. The neighbor then went over to check on the dogs and found them “limp, they were dead,” Keller said.
McGuire said she evicted the couple because they wouldn’t pay the rent at the double-wide trailer and wouldn’t move.
“The grass was up to the windows,” she said. “One dog was chained up at the front and another one was chained up at the back. They did get up under the underpinning (of the mobile home) at times ... they could’ve come and got those dogs.”
But Keller said she’s being falsely blamed.
“Everyone’s trying to say that we just packed up and moved and left them there,” she said. “That’s not how it happened at all.”
Keller was asked if the dogs had food and water.
“Yes, I still have the bag of dog food that we were giving them,” she said. “I had Sandy for five years, since she was a puppy.”
She said Duke was the male dog.
Keller was asked what she thought happened.
“I don’t know ... they were on a runner-type chain thing that couldn’t be tangled up,” she said. “(The neighbor said) Sandy’s cord was run through Duke’s cord, and it was tight. It took them awhile to get them apart. Someone had tied them together because (when we left them) one was tied on one end and one was tied on the other end. And they were tied up together (when they were found dead).”
Because of the entanglement, Keller believes the dogs couldn’t get to their food and water. She said her boyfriend had told her on the next-to-last load of moving all they had to do was go back and get a four-wheeler, the dog house and the dogs. Then it was “only 30 or 45 minutes” before McGuire called with the bad news.
“That was it, that was all we had left (to move), and then (the landlord) called,” Keller said. “I know it’s a bad situation, but we didn’t just leave our dogs and we didn’t just kill ’em. We had them forever.”
Keller said she will hire an attorney and fight the charges.
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