A Big Sandy-area woman who had 71 animals seized from her by the state in May was arrested Wednesday on a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to non-livestock animals after she reportedly solicited donations of dogs recently, said Upshur County Pct. 1 Constable Gene Dolle.
Linda Luker, 56, remained in county jail at Gilmer under $3,500 bond Thursday afternoon on the Class A misdemeanor charge, said the sheriff’s office. If convicted, she could face up to a year in county jail and a fine of up to $4,000, or up to three years probation, said Lisa King, office manager for District Attorney Billy Byrd.
Dolle said he and city of Gladewater animal control officer Mark Dennison arrested Luker at her rural home about 4 p.m. before the constable transported her to the county jail.
Another woman from whom the animals were seized, Carol Pinckert, has not been charged with any crime “at this time,” Dolle said Wednesday. “That part of the case is still under investigation,” he said.
The 71 animals - 64 dogs, six cats, and a horse - were seized from a site in the Union Grove area May 8. Many were found to be diseased or underweight, and Upshur County Judge Dean Fowler ordered on June 2 they remain in the custody of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Texas.
Dolle said Luker had then gone around the county and the city of Gladewater in recent weeks soliciting donations of animals. He quoted Gladewater police as saying she told people “she was some kind of rescue group” and would care for their animals if they did not want them.
When arrested, she had three dogs and a cat which all “looked to be OK,” said Dolle. She was staying at the home of a man who will “take care of them while she’s incarcerated.
The purported solicitation for animals is “not really” what resulted in the new criminal charge, he added. It was “just kind of coincidental” the charge was filed now, said Dolle.
He also said officers had been gathering records of multiple veterinarians the women used and gathering other infomation in the investigation, and that the probe was completed about the time Luker allegedly started soliciting for animals.
Byrd’s office issued the arrest warrant. He’s been “working tirelessly with me on this,” said Dolle.
“She was surprised she was arrested,” but “she gave no trouble,” the constable added.
Upshur County Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace W.V. Ray had awarded custody of the animals to the SPCA at a lengthy May 16 hearing, but Luker and Pinckert appealed his ruling to county court, where Fowler denied their appeal after another hearing.
Fowler found the animals had been “cruelly treated” by legal definition and ordered the women pay more than $21,000 in restitution and court costs.
An animal control officer who visited the site where the animals were kept testified they were in “horrendous” conditions, and a SPCA veterinarian testified that the dogs had been unnecessarily deprived of care. Pinckert meantime accused the SPCA of using “doctored” photographs, and Luker complained that the hearing was not “very fair.”
The seizure stemmed from a proceeding, which Dolle handled, in which the two women were being evicted from the home at the site where the animals were kept on a private road.