Authorities in northwest Georgia found dozens of neglected animals living in “horrible conditions” in a home Thursday, just hours before the owner of that residence committed suicide.
Amid an investigation into reports of animal cruelty that involved a business in Tennessee, the Dalton Police Department served a search warrant at a home in the 800 block of Mattie Street, spokesman Bruce Frazier said in a statement.
They found 16 dogs, two baby goats, two turtles and a snake in the residence, and nine ducks in the backyard. They also found a dead turtle and several dead snakes, Frazier said.
All of the animals were malnourished and living in deplorable conditions. Many of the dogs were covered in their own waste, the statement said.
The Whitfield County Animal Shelter worked with rescue groups to find homes for the animals.
The investigation began Sunday when Dalton police talked to an Atlanta woman who said she agreed to meet Stephen Kinder, 42, to pick up her Great Dane, which she had sent to Kinder’s training business in Cleveland, Tenn., for seven weeks.
Abigail Eastburn told police the dog had lost 30 pounds, was vomiting and had diarrhea.
“He was brought up in a good, loving home,” Eastburn told Channel 2 Action News. “He just now ... is completely different.”
Dalton police referred the case to Bradley County authorities in Tennessee, leading to Kinder’s arrest Monday on four counts of animal cruelty.
That’s when Dalton police received information that some of the animals from that business were being housed in the Mattie Street residence, Frazier said.
While on the scene Thursday morning, investigators were contacted by the Bradley County sheriff’s office, which said one of Kinder’s friends contacted them and said he was suicidal.
Dalton police then contacted Kinder by phone just after noon. He told them he was fine and was on his way to Whitfield County and would meet them at the home, according to the statement.
Bradley County authorities called again just over an hour later and said Kinder had been found with a self-inflicted gunshot wound, Frazier said. He was located in the parking lot of an American Legion post in Cleveland, according to the Cleveland Daily Banner.
No charges have been filed in Dalton at this time, but the investigation continues.
In other news: