BONHAM, Tex. -- A Fannin County couple was in a municipal courtroom Tuesday after 209 cats and three dogs were seized from their home on Friday (story). The future of those animals has now been decided.
The Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas will keep all the animals seized from David and Chenoa Wheeler's home on Friday. Those are the terms of an agreement reached with the state on Tuesday.
In exchange for voluntarily giving up the cats and dogs, the couple will not have to pay any fees or fines.
"It's very difficult. It's made things very difficult between my wife and I. It's very difficult," the property’s owner, David Wheeler, says.
Wheeler says this agreement is very hard to deal with. He says he and his wife love animals and were just trying to rescue abused and abandoned cats.
"The animals that we took in that were strays were originally in a town that had no animal control, where people were abusing them. And I don't mean just living in overcrowded conditions. I mean they were taking them and using them for target practice," Wheeler says.
Wheeler says he doesn't think the agreement is fair but says he thinks a hearing would not have been fair either.
Judge John Skotnik was set to preside over the case had it gone to court. Skotnik used to be Wheeler's neighbor. Wheeler says that would have been a conflict of interest.
"The city of Bonham was more interested in a speedy resolution than a fair resolution. I do have some doubts about the judges ability to be impartial, we had a property dispute with them when we moved in," says Wheeler.
Officials say the case was treated fairly, and that the police initiated the seizure-- not the judge.
"Until we contacted him about doing the seizure warrant, he didn't know we were dealing with them at all," Bonham Police Chief Mike Bankston says.
"They were very anxious to try to work and solve their problem, and we were very anxious to allow them to try to solve the problem, but either they didn't work hard enough, or they just got overwhelmed, and it just came to a point where we had to take action," Chief Bankston said.
Police say they have been in contact with the couple since July of 2006.
Other terms of the agreement state that the wheelers are not allowed to own a pet for at least one year. After that year expires, the property must be inspected by authorities before they adopt any animals.