A well-known animal rescuer in San Bernardino County, California, now faces more than a dozen felony counts of animal abuse in what some in the rescue community are calling one of the worst cases of animal cruelty they have seen.
Sherre Kay Buell is charged with three counts in Hesperia and twelve counts in Apple Valley.
"I think that's one of the most difficult things for any of us in the animal welfare position. Why do people hurt animals?" wondered Gina Whiteside, manager at the Town of Apple Valley Animal Services.
Of the 13 severely malnourished dogs animal control officers removed from Buell's home in April, two had to be euthanized, one died en route to the veterinarian and another was found dead in a trash can.
"Their skin was very tight to their ribs," said Whiteside, adding that some animals were so weak, they not able to get up on their own.
The case shocked the animal rescue community, especially those who had worked with Buell to help dogs in the past.
"Kay had an impeccable reputation for helping rescues as a foster, specifically for senior dogs, hospice dogs," said Annie Hart of Rescue from the Hart.
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Hart had not worked with Buell directly, but had heard of her rescue work from others.
"I was horrified when Kay Buell was arrested," she said.
Hart said Buell brought a dog named Angel to her rescue group in January.
"She was hours away from death," Hart said. "We had been told she was found stumbling down the side of the road. And she couldn’t even stand up for us, so that seemed a little odd. ... To go from a 30 pound dog, 33 pound dog down to an 11 pound dog, that takes months."
Angel is not one of the dogs included in the felony complaint against Buell, but her case is still being investigated, according to Whiteside, who said she expects more dogs to be added to the complaint.
"There needs to be some animal action at the state level that regulates animal rescuing," Whiteside said.
Angel has made a remarkable recovery and has now been officially adopted.
While shelters are regulated by law to ensure they humanely care and provide for the animals they take in, the same rules are not in place for rescue groups or the people who foster, explained Whiteside.
"When you don't keep track of animals going out, you don't know who's taking them," said Whiteside. "You end up with a situation like Ms. Buell's."
Hart said she would like to see more accountability when it comes to keeping track of animals after they leave the shelter.
"First, would be an animal abuse registry that shelters and general public can look up to make sure the person is legitimate," she said.
Lindsay Vose, Buell's attorney, urged the public "to refrain from prejudging Ms. Buell based on much of the misinformation currently being shared on social media." She went on to say, "At this time we are diligently reviewing all of the evidence received from the DA’s office. Ms. Buell looks forward to her day in court and the opportunity for the true facts in this case to come to light."
Buell is scheduled to appear in court for a preliminary hearing on Dec. 3. She is being held in lieu of $100,000 bail.
For additional video of Angel, please visit Rescue From the Hart.