Three face animal cruelty charges in Miller County

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Miller County, Ark., prosecutors have charged three Texarkana residents with aggravated animal cruelty after finding two dogs dead in their back yard.

Joyce Cooper, 61, Debra Maxwell, 58, and Antonious Maxwell, 37, each face up to six years in prison and a fine up to $10,000 if convicted.

A man who noticed one of the dog carcasses while walking down an alley in the 1000 block of Laurel Street in Texarkana, Ark., approached animal control officers March 28, according to an arrest affidavit. Later the same day, officers went to the home to investigate.

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Finding nobody at the residence, officers walked to the back yard. There they found a “highly decomposed dog carcass entangled in vines which had been tethered to a fence by a blue leash and a chain.”

“By the shape of the skull and the teeth it appeared to most likely be a Pit Bull between the ages of six months to a year old,” the affidavit states. “There was no shelter available for the dog, nor were there adequate food or water close bowls close to it. We were not able to determine the cause of death.”

Another carcass was found approximately 25 feet from the residence’s back steps. Officers estimated the adult Pit Bull was possibly two years in age and not as severely decomposed as the first dog.

“The dog had been tethered to a small tree by a chain which was severely tangled in some bushes and around a wooden crate,” the affidavit states. “The dog’s head was wedged between two small shrubs indicating possible suffocation as a result of prolonged upward pressure against its trachea. Judging by the chew marks at the base of the shrubs, it appeared the dog would have suffered a struggling slow and painful death.”

Cooper allegedly arrived at the house while the officers were in the yard photographing the dogs. Cooper allegedly reported that she had been living at the house for two months and that both dogs were alive when she first moved into the house. Cooper allegedly told the officers that Debra Maxwell had lived in the house for about 10 years and that Maxwell’s son was the owner of the dogs.

Cooper allegedly contacted Debra Maxwell while officers were at the house but Maxwell allegedly refused to speak with them. Cooper allegedly refused to give officers the name of Debra Maxwell’s son.

“When Ms. Cooper was asked why she had not intervened or reported the situation or deaths of the animals, she responded by telling us it wasn’t her concern, blaming Ms. Maxwell and her son,” the affidavit states. “She also told us that she doesn’t usually go into their back yard, and therefore, wasn’t concerned with the dogs’ rotting carcasses being there.”

Antonious Maxwell is currently free on a $30,000 bond. Both Cooper and Debra Maxwell are free on bonds of $10,000. Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Connie Mitchell is handling all three cases for Miller County.

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