The leader of a local animal rescue has shifted her focus from animals to an elderly couple in the Greenbrier area.
Lesley Goode-Cobb, of Wishing Well for Paws, is making it her mission to point out another facet to last week’s residential fire that left 41 dogs dead and more than 90 without shelter.
"I’m not denying the couple had too many dogs, but I am saying they were victims also. We aren’t dealing with a situation like a puppy mill where they would make money off of dogs," Goode-Cobb said.
Goode-Cobb has been at Patricia and Jessie Baldridge’s property every day since the couple lost their trailer to a fire officials believe was caused by a wood stove.
Rescue groups were contacted last Friday when first responders found almost 100 dogs alive on the property and homeless.
The animals have been subsequently divided up among rescue organizations and the Humane Society of Faulkner County.
Goode-Cobb said a week after the fire, the couple has resorted to living in a bus on the property.
"They’re both in bad health. They lost everything. Everything was burned — linens, clothes, their food," she said.
A spokesperson from the Humane Society of Faulkner County said the animals appeared to have been well-fed, and all heartworm tests from the animals are negative.
Some of the dogs had been spayed or neutered, according to the HSFC.
Goode-Cobb said the couple’s property is frequently used to dump unwanted animals.
"I’ve seen it with my own eyes. They were doing the best they could with what they had. The dogs weren’t totally healthy, but she fed them and did all she could," she said.
Goode-Cobb and others have connected Jessie Baldridge, a Vietnam veteran, with benefits from the Veterans Association. Goode-Cobb said he will receive a monthly check to assist with housing, "but it won’t cover medical costs or all of housing."
Other rescue groups like P.S. I Love You Animal Rescue, Arkansas Chihuahua Rescue and members of the Humane Society are also working to assist the couple, Goode-Cobb said.
Goode-Cobb has set up a fund for the couple at Bank of America. Those wishing to assist the couple with the loss of their home and possessions can donate to the Wishing Well for Paws fund.
Donation points are also at Fellowship Bible Church and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.
"They just kept too many animals and it got out of hand. They admit that. We don’t have a county shelter and they didn’t want to see them euthanized," Goode-Cobb said. "They didn’t have children. These were their children."
Faulkner County Sheriff’s Office Capt. Matt Rice said the couple had an excessive amount of animals, "but apparently they were all cared for."
Rice said no charges will come against the couple for owning an excessive number of animals.
"There’s no limit to how many animals you can have in the county. No one has claimed this was a puppy mill," he said.
(Staff writer Courtney Spradlin can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1236. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)