LOUISA, VA (WWBT) - The woman charged with five counts of animal cruelty after hundreds of animals were discovered on her Louisa property, was found guilty on Thursday.
Clara Collier, 77, faced 12 months for each charge, but she was sentenced to six months for each. All of her time was suspended, and she was given two years of probation. She was also sentenced to 500 hours of community service, instead of paying restitution of $7,500. She was also told to pay $186 in court costs.
Under her probation, Collier cannot possess any animals, except for two birds the state approves of. With that, she must allow Louisa Animal Care & Control to inspect her property to check on the birds at any given time.
All the other animals on her property must be turned over to the Louisa Animal Care & Control.
This comes after over 500 animals were discovered in poor conditions at a farm on West Old Mountain Road on Nov. 29. The investigation began when someone called the sheriff's office for runaway goats. When deputies arrived, they found the hundreds of animals, including some that were dead.
The animals included cats, rabbits, sheep, goats, cows, and emus.
After the animals were discovered, a newly-formed animal welfare task force got to work caring for the animals.
The task force is led by a member of the community animal response team, better known as "CART." They are being put to the test to make sure as many animals as possible survive, while the courts decide where they should go.
Volunteers have been taking care of the animals.
"It's 10 to 12 people working around the clock, or working eight hours a day, just to keep them fed, water and cleaned," says Donnie Embry, Louisa CART. "Then the paperwork afterwards. We don't get out of here until 11 o'clock at night, come in at 8 o'clock in the morning."
The commonwealth said they do not believe Collier had any intent of ill will and that she had reached out to the community claiming the earthquake damaged her farm. Over time, the poultry and guinea pigs mass produced, and she could not keep up with caring for them.
She also broke her leg back in July.
"You have to look at each case individually, and not having any malice, not having any record, jail time would not have gotten any message to her," says Louisa Commonwealth's attorney Rusty McGuire.
"Given everything, I think this is a right and just outcome," says prosecutor Edwin Consolvo.
Louisa CART says it's thankful for the outpouring of support, supplies and volunteers from across the state.
"We hardly had to buy any feed at all," says Embry. "Bags and bags were just dropped off, the bedding, everything we needed for them."
Embry says it means everything to them.
According to the state, by signing over the animals, Collier is saving the county money by not fighting the case and elongating the situation.
The animals can now go to various non-profits immediately and will soon go up for adoption.
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