Lee County animal rescue raided, two arrested for inhumane treatment of animals

LEE COUNTY, SC (WIS) – The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources has arrested two women in connection with the inhumane treatment of animals.

Laura Ross and Nicole Lafaivre face multiple charges, including illegal possession of white-tailed deer, inhumane treatment of animals, and illegal import / possession of non-native wildlife.

On June 29, conservation officers executed a search warrant on property in Lee County.

Upon arrival, officers found several deer, more than 200 squirrels and other animals kept under crowded conditions inside a double-width mobile home on the property. Armadillos and nutria, an invasive species native to South America, were also found on the property.

Authorities say some of the small mammals were kept in cages stacked in the living room of the mobile home while others roamed freely.

Several wildlife protection agencies will assist the SCDNR in ensuring safe housing for animals that have been confiscated from the property until they can be assessed for potential illnesses or other health concerns.

“Right now our primary concern is the welfare of these animals,” said Emily Cope, Deputy Director of Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries for SCDNR. “It is a very difficult situation to manage, mainly because of the large number of animals that were kept on this site and the deplorable conditions that prevailed there. We are working with Animal Control to determine the best way forward, and the help we have received from local vets has been invaluable.

The University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine Southeastern Cooperative Wildlife Disease Study will help SCDNR test some of the animals. Animals declared disease free may be released into the wild, although the disposition of each animal will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis.

“The SCDNR takes the inhumane treatment of animals very seriously,” said SCDNR Deputy Director for Law Enforcement Col. Chisolm Frampton. “It is heartbreaking when our officers are faced with a situation like this, and we greatly appreciate the help of the Lee County Sheriff‘s Office and all the other agencies and individuals involved yesterday. It is important for us to be clear that this type of treatment of wildlife will not be tolerated in South Carolina. “

Ross and LaFaivre were being held at the Sumter-Lee Regional Detention Center pending a bail hearing.

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