Workers demolish home where more than 70 malnourished dogs lived with thousands of rats

Contractors spent Tuesday knocking down the Owen County home where more than 70 malnourished dogs lived with thousands of rats. (WISH photo)

FREEDOM, Ind. (WISH) — Contractors spent Tuesday knocking down the Owen County home where police said two siblings hoarded more than 70 malnourished dogs and lived with thousands of rats.

Paul and Vikki Purcell face animal cruelty charges after police arrested them Friday.

Workers filled two trailers with debris and, around noon, they said they’d called in two more. They took the job after health officials deemed the property unsafe for dogs or humans.

Sue Gourley lives next to the home where police found the dogs living in filth.

“We don’t have to come outside and carry a gun anymore, afraid of being attacked by packs of dogs,” Gourley said.

Neighbors called police in May to complain about rats crawling around the neighborhood. Detectives said thousands of rats swarmed the area until exterminators showed up.

“It was a nightmare trying to go from your front door to your vehicle and having to dodge rats that weren’t afraid of you,” Gourley said.

Seven rusty cars and piles of trash surrounded the house Tuesday.

Paul Purcell told police he’s a minister who wants to start an animal sanctuary, according to a court document.

Becky Brown of the Owen County Humane Society said shelter workers discovered ticks, tumors and heartworm in the dogs. The Purcells face one misdemeanor and one infraction each.

“Unfortunately, that’s just the way the law is written. If he had been charged previously on these same charges, then that could be bumped up to a felony,” Brown said.

Gourley said she still hears rats running around the area. She hopes the demolition doesn’t send them crawling to her home, because the ones that died are causing enough trouble.

“I’m sure you can smell the death that’s coming across from the property,” she said. “That’s what we’ve had to live with.”

Neighboring shelters picked up dozens of the dogs from the Owen County Humane Society. All of the dogs survived.

Eleven are still in Owen County and nine of them are available for adoption.

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