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UPDATE: Man accused of animal neglect says he is 'overwhelmed'

(WSAZ)
Published: Apr. 11, 2017 at 5:29 PM EDT
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UPDATE 5/4/17 @ 11:49 p.m.

PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A visibly upset defendant in an animal abuse and neglect case changed his mind about taking back any of the animals seized from his farm.

Mark Santee, who claimed to have an animal rescue on Red House Hill in Putnam County, originally told the magistrate he wanted some of the 100 animals seized back. However, while testifying in court Thursday he told a judge he was trying to do a good thing by helping the animals at A&A Farm, but things got out of hand.

"I have no cruel intentions. I was both taking on animals that other people didn't want, some for free. The goat, I didn't know anything about tags, I didn't know there was laws against pheasants."

Santee will have to pay $4,900 for the care of the animals for the next 30 days.

He faces 19 counts of animal cruelty, along with a single count of failing to spay a female dog that he adopted from the animal shelter.

In addition to the dog, goat and pheasants, officers found six horses, three dogs, 76 chickens and 20 rabbits.

Investigators say the animals were living in poor conditions and didn't have food or water, except some hay for the horses.

Thursday a vet also testified before the magistrate on the condition of the animals when they were taken from the farm.


UPDATE 4/27/17

PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- There was no decision made Thursday for a man charged with neglecting and abusing 110 animals on his farm.

Mark Santee asked the magistrate Thursday to return some of those animals. He said most of them would go back to their original owners. He also said he wants to keep three others that were seized for himself.

"Half seem to have feces and muck in the water, dirt ... and of course there's feathers and feces from the birds in the water, as well," said Putnam County Humane Officer Shawn Martin. He testified Thursday, and said the conditions the animals were kept in were deplorable.

However Santee told the magistrate that he has a feed handler who comes twice a day, and that the animals were taken care of.

Magistrate Jean Ann Luikart continued the hearing until next Friday, May 4.

She said she wants to hear from the vets that looked at the animals.


UPDATE 4/25/17 @ 6:15 p.m.

PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The man accused of being cruel and neglecting more than 100 animals turned himself in Tuesday afternoon.

It's the latest step to a story WSAZ told you about two weeks ago when authorities seized the animals from Mark Andrew Santee and A & A Farm on Red House hill.

Among them was everything from horses and dogs to a peacock, two pheasants and a goat.

The goat is looking better and the horses, too, at the Putnam Animal Shelter Tuesday, two weeks after they were seized.

In an interview with WSAZ on April 12, Santee said, "I love every one of them."

But humane officials say he had a funny way of showing it.

Santee faces 19 counts of animal cruelty, along with a single count of failing to spay a female dog which he adopted from the animal shelter.

He turned himself in to authorities Tuesday afternoon.

"Mr. Santee misrepresented himself as far as being a charity organization,” said Jon Davis, Chief Putnam County Humane Officer. “That actually is not the case."

While Santee said on April 12, "They eat whenever they want to eat. It's not a feeding. They can eat whenever they want."

Black said that was not true.

Officers found some hay for the horses, although they are running tests to see even how nutritious that is. As for the six horses, three dogs, 76 chickens, 20 rabbits and assorted other animals, "there was no other food on the premises for any of the other animals."

The shelter still has 13 animals on site Tuesday, among the ones that Santee hopes to regain ownership to after a court hearing later this week.

Almost all the others have been given a new home, including the two horses in the worst shape at an equine rescue facility.

Each misdemeanor animal neglect conviction brings a maximum penalty of six months in jail.

"It's concerning, but I got faith," said Santee at the time.

Black said he looks forward to justice being served for 116 animals, the largest case in this county in more than a decade.

"It is just disturbing the situation when we went onto the property and actually examined the animals," he said.

Each of the 19 counts of animal cruelty carries a maximum penalty of $2,000 fine and six months in jail.

Santee disputed the accusations of cruelty and neglect outside the courthouse Tuesday.

"I did take care of them,” he said. “All the animals had shelter. You could come up on the farm anytime and not see an animal because they are all inside the barn.”

But he said “that’s enough” and walked away, not answering any more questions.

As for the failure to spay charge, it’s also a misdemeanor for not getting his dog spayed within 30 days of adoption. He had adopted it from the animal shelter in November, the same month he bought the property.

If convicted, it carries a max fine of $250.

Santee posted $5,000 bail Tuesday afternoon.

He gave up custody to most of the animals, so they have already been given new homes. But he requested a hearing to contest the seizure of some of the animals, including four horses.

That hearing is set for Thursday at 9:15 a.m.


UPDATE 4/12/17 @ 6:30 p.m.

PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- The owner of a self-designated animal rescue farm is speaking out after more than 100 neglected and abused animals were removed from his property in a two-day period.

Andrew Santee says he bought the farm last year after realizing his purpose in life is to save animals.

"I love every one of them. I go after nighttime feeding. That's when I get my reward, when they lean in with a hug," Santee said.

But Putnam County Humane officers say it's one of the worst cases they've seen in the past decade.

Officials say the living space at A&A Farms on Red House Hill along Route 34 was cramped and full of feces. They say many of the animals were without food and/or sick.

Humane officials say they found the remains of at least eight dead animals, two of which were rabbits found in a fire pit.

By Wednesday, all 103 animals were removed from the farm and taken to Putnam Animal Shelter.

That's where Winfield Police Chief Bobby Eggleton, who also owns horses, had an unexpected reunion with one of the horses rescued from Santee's farm.

"It's heartbreaking when I look over there and I see that horse. One of the finest horses I've ever owned," Eggleton said. "They were being neglected emotionally, food ... everything this horse needed, it wasn't getting."

As for Santee, he says the whole situation is a blessing.

"Just praying for understanding as to why you are taking my animals, and then it came to me. You're helping me so I cannot be caring for these animals 24/7 and worrying because I'm downtown at work."

Humane officials say the farm was not licensed as an official animal rescue. They also say the owner will be formally with multiple counts of abuse and neglect.

Humane officers say Santee has the option to designate as many animals as he wants to keep ownership of as the case moves through the court system. They say he has signed some over permanently, but has also chosen to keep ownership of others.

Santee will have to pay his living expenses each month until the case is settled and will only be able to get the animals back if he's found not guilty.


UPDATE 4/11/17 @ 11:35 p.m.

PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- More than 100 neglected and abused animals have been removed from a self-designated animal rescue farm.

Putnam County Humane Officers say, Tuesday, they found one of the worst cases of animal abuse they've seen the past decade.

Officials say the living space at A&A Farms on Red House Hill along Route 34 was cramped and full of feces. They say many of the animals were without food and/or sick.

Humane officials also claim they found the remains of at least eight dead animals, two of which were rabbits found in a fire pit.

The conditions were so bad, Putnam County humane officials called the Kanawha-Charleston Humane Association for help removing all 103 animals from the farm.

"I'm glad they're gone, because now they're gonna be taken care of," neighbor Crystal Ashworth said. "[The suspect] deserves jail time, he deserves fines, he deserves everything."

Humane officials say they investigated the farm after seeing several posts on social media, saying animals were loose on a nearby road.

Ashworth says she witnessed abuse in person.

"He smacked one of the horses so hard, I heard it inside my house," Ashworth said. "To me, it would be where animals are going to die."

Humane officials say the farm was not licensed as an official animal rescue. They also say the owner will be formally charged Wednesday with multiple counts of abuse and neglect.

Humane officers say the owner of the animals has the option to designate as many as he wants to keep ownership of as this case moves through the court system. They say he has signed some over permanently, but has also chosen to keep ownership of others.

The owner will have to pay his living expenses each month until the case is settled and will only be able to get them back if he's found not guilty.


ORIGINAL STORY 4/11/17 @ 5:30 p.m.

PUTNAM COUNTY, W.Va. (WSAZ) – More than 100 neglected animals were removed Tuesday from a farm in the Paradise area, investigators say.

It happened along state Route 34, north of Red House.

Officials with both the Kanawha and Putnam Humane Associations were on the scene.

Altogether, 103 animals were removed from A&A Farms.

Investigators say the owner faces multiple counts of animal cruelty and neglect. A warrant is expected to be served Wednesday morning.