Cops in white hazmat suits early Wednesday evening wheeled a 6-foot tall birdcage across a west Casper lawn and toward a re-purposed horse trailer.
The cage, corralled by Capt. Shane Chaney, wearing orange moonboots and a respirator, and Officer Craig Burns, held one of the roughly 80 animals approximately 15 agency employees had taken from a house during a law enforcement investigation into a potential animal cruelty case. By 5 p.m. police had filled three pickup trucks with animals as they worked to remove — by Casper Police Department estimates — about 80 animals from a property an agency spokeswoman said was filled with animal squalor.
The investigation began following a series of calls by neighbors reporting feces complaints to Metro Animal Services, according to an agency spokeswoman. After the police department requested a warrant and executed it shortly before noon, it found an estimated 15 to 20 cats, 40 to 50 dogs and about 10 large birds on the property, said Rebekah Ladd, the spokeswoman.
The agency is expecting to bring criminal charges in connection to the investigation, but police had not yet made an arrest by Wednesday evening.
Mike Schafer, one of three prosecutors at the scene Wednesday said that the case would likely be handled through the Casper City Attorney’s Office. Schafer, who works in the Natrona County District Attorney’s Office, said he didn’t think the investigation would turn up evidence to support aggravated animal cruelty charges. The misdemeanor charges expected will be handled by city prosecutors in municipal court instead.
A lone woman lived at the house on West 23rd Street near Nancy English Park, and Ladd said adult protective services, which is a part of the Department of Family Services, was also conducting a related investigation. How the social services investigation might impact the criminal case was not immediately clear Wednesday.
The street was expected to remain closed well into the evening and more than a dozen marked emergency vehicles, including a firetruck, lined a curve in the road. Police officers stacked cages inside the horse trailer, hitched to the back of a Metro pickup. Inside, an animal services officer talked to a bird, which croaked back.
Metro Animal Shelter will temporarily house the animals while law enforcement and prosecutors determine their legal status, Ladd said. The agency will release more information about the case if and when a person is charged criminally.
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