published Saturday, March 17th, 2012

'It's a darn shame,' neighbor says of trailer with 30+ dogs

  • photo
    An window stands open next to the sealed front door of a mobile home in the Fairlane Oaks community on Friday. The day after more than 20 dogs were removed from the mobile home in Rossville the trailer's door remained sealed. Neighbors claim that they rarely saw the homeowner, and never saw a dog outside the abode, though they always heard barking.
    Photo by Jake Daniels.
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There is still some movement inside Trailer 84 on James Street in Rossville.

Neighbors say they can hear little barks, but it's hard to know if there are any Chihuahuas still inside. Another puppy was found Friday morning that Walker County responders didn't see when, dressed in hazardous materials suits, they removed 33 dogs from the small trailer Thursday.

Animal control workers there said the smell was so bad they couldn't breathe.

A window left open after the raid for circulation offers a view inside the dogs' world. Chewed boxes and dirt-covered belongings are piled nearly to the ceiling. The kitchen and its counters are overtaken with trash. Flies buzz in and out of the window, and the air coming out smells of feces.

No one knows if dead dogs are under the clutter. The trailer has been sealed by authorities.

"It's a darn shame," said Mark Niver, a neighbor who sunbathed on his porch Friday with his two dogs. "It broke my heart."

Neighbors don't know much about Sandra Hays, the trailer's owner. She had a job and looked as if she was in her early 60s, Niver said.

She had a son who lived with her for a time, but he moved out and then she seemed lonely, another neighbor said.

"She had someone to take care of her, then everyone left," said John Sherrill, who lives across the street.

Hays, who hasn't been charged with any crime, couldn't be reached Friday, and her phone is disconnected. Managers at Fairlane Oaks Mobile Home Park said she is staying with family.

Her yard was as clean as those of her neighbors, who say she was quiet and kept to herself. They say the dogs always could be heard barking, but no one ever saw her take them outside.

Park managers said they began calling the authorities about Trailer 84 several months ago. They were concerned about the smells and the noise, and they noticed that Hays hadn't been coming home much.

In the weeks leading up to the raid, the trailer had become quiet. A car was outside but no one came out. The dogs didn't bark, even when someone knocked on the door.

Niver said neighbors whispered that the dogs were eating each other. Some were worried Hays was dead inside.

The dogs are being held at the Walker County Animal Shelter. There are 17 males and 16 females. The oldest is 5 years old, authorities said.

Alison Smith, the shelter director, said the dogs are feral, covered in fleas and their hair is falling out. She said criminal charges of animal cruelty soon could be filed against Hays.

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

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