Jury finds rescued animals were cruelly treated

HOUSTON The 1,078 animals consisted mostly of exotic birds, hamsters, and rabbits. The jury found that one dog, which was the family pet, was not cruelly treated.

The case was appealed by the defendants, Juan and Berta Gracia of Highlands, after a judge originally found that the animals had been cruelly treated and ordered the owners to pay the Houston SPCA more than $18,000 for medical and housing costs.

"These animals were rescued from deplorable, horrific conditions, and many lacked proper food and shelter as required by law," said Linda Geffin, Chief of the Special Prosecutions Unit for the Harris County Attorney's Office. "The Gracias' attorney said they treated these animals like their children; however, the animals did not have adequate medical care, food, shelter, or water."

Evidence from the trial showed that the cages that housed the animals were lined with waste, spider webs and old food. Hundreds of animals were without water and food. Some of the animals were dead or close to dying.

The Gracias' attorneys claimed that the standard of care is different for animals owned by breeders than for regular pet owners.

Geffin said that the county attorney's investigation found the Gracias were breeding the animals for sale at flea markets.

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