Woman charged with animal abuse, neglect after 53 dogs are rescued in Missouri

1 July 2022

A woman is facing animal abuse and neglect charges after 53 dogs were rescued from a property in northwest Johnson County, Missouri.

Midwest Animal ResQ, Old Drum Animal Shelter and Risen from the Ashes are caring for the dogs that were removed from the property.

“They were living in deplorable conditions,” said Midwest Animal ResQ Founding Director Erin Morse. “When you’ve got 50-some-odd animals coming out of one location, it’s a big undertaking.”

According to court records, investigators received an anonymous call about neglected animals at Merna Scarborough’s property in Pleasant Hill. When investigators went to the property, they say they found severely ill dogs outside of the home and could hear dogs barking inside of the house.

“When you see them living in squalor, it is heartbreaking. There were a lot of dead animals on the property that we didn’t get there soon enough to help,” Morse said. “To somebody who has dedicated their life to animal welfare, it takes a toll.”

Court records state several dogs were diagnosed with sarcoptic mange and were in severe conditions with hair loss, open wounds, scabs and scarring. One German Shepherd was emaciated to the point it could not stand properly and had one-inch wide, deep wounds on its hind limbs consistent with being in a kennel for long periods of time.

“A lot of them had communicable diseases. Zoonotic diseases so those are contagious to humans, not just to other dogs,” Morse said. “They had different types of mange and parasites.”

A search warrant was executed at the property. According to charging documents, the home was covered in dog feces and urine, and the living conditions were not sanitary or safe for animals or humans.

Scarborough is charged with two counts of animal abuse and two counts of animal neglect or abandonment.

The dozens of dogs are being cared for by Midwest Animal ResQ, Old Drum Animal Shelter and Risen From the Ashes until the animals can be cleared for foster and adoption.

“All three of us are in the same boat needing donations, adoptions and fosters,” Morse said. “The need is everywhere. We will absolutely need forever homes once our goal of getting them healthy and happy is reached.”

Animal rescue advocates hope additional charges will be filed. They say animal abuse and neglect are far too common in Missouri.

“As certain breeds become more popular, there are unscrupulous people out there trying to make a quick dollar at the expense of the animals,” Morse said. “My preference is that everyone is able to adopt but, if you are going to purchase a pup, there are reputable breeders out there. If they won’t let you come to their house or meet the parents, those are all big red flags.”

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