A caravan of trucks, trailers and other vehicles departed under escort by the Gonzales County sheriff's office near daylight Thursday, April 20, en route to a site located on Gates Cemetery Road off U.S. Highway 183 south of Gonzales.
At that site were housed 11 bears of assorted breeds, two tigers and assorted other domestic animals.
The vehicles were occupied by members of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals from as far away as Dallas, Houston and San Antonio. The group's mission was to seize the animals for violations of the Gonzales County Dangerous Animal Code and for cruelty to animals due to substandard housing conditions.
Armed with the appropriate court-issued documents to take the animals into custody and under the direction of Constable Ken Hedrick, the group began the chore of loading the various animals into appropriate traveling cages and trailers for the trip to facilities that had agreed to take on the task of housing them. The animals were distributed west to Kendalia, north to Fort Worth-Dallas and east to Houston.
"All the animals were loaded and left Gonzales County in good shape though a few were sedated by a veterinarian who came with the SPCA to ensure safe transfer from the holding cages to the traveling cages," Sheriff Glen A. Sachtleben said in a news release about removal of the animals.
David Richtman was taken into custody by the Gonzales County sheriff's office and placed in the county jail on papers stemming from previous court actions concerning the animals.
The seizure of the animals and the arrest of Richtman ended lengthy case work done by Hedrick who is the dangerous wild animal permit officer for Gonzales County.
"Hedrick invested a great deal of time getting the case to prosecution and then attempting to place the animals in animal rehab centers around the state and finally made tentative arrangements for the SPCA to take custody of at least some of the animals," Sachtleben said.
County Judge David Bird and county commissioners met in special session on Tuesday, April 18, to make final decisions as to disposition of the animals because by court order they had become the property and responsibility of Gonzales County.
"If Gonzales County were to retain ownership, the care of them would be prohibitive in cost," Sachtleben said. It has been estimated that those costs could run as high as $250,000 a year.
Commissioners court voted at that session to pass ownership completely to the SPCA with the only other option being to have the animals euthanized. After communicating this decision to the SPCA, Bird received notice that the SPCA would take all of the animals.
Removal of the animals was assisted by Game Warden Jason Davis, Sachtleben and other officers of the Gonzales County Sheriff's Department and Precinct 1 Commissioner Kevin LaFleur and his road crew along with Curt Trammell who supplied and operated a BobCat forklift to move the heavy cages.
"It might be added that without Commissioner LaFleur and his crew and Curt Trammell, the removal of the animals would have taken many more hours to complete; their assistance was invaluable," Sachtleben said.