Animal cruelty case mired in bankruptcy
Gillespie County Commissioners approved retaining legal services in a case involving a couple charged with animal cruelty and going through bankruptcy.
Gillespie County Attorney Chris Nevins told commissioners about a July call by the Gillespie County Sheriff’s Office to a property with poorly treated or dead animals.
“Through a warrant, they seized seven animals — three horses, two donkeys and two cows, there were also three deceased animals,” Nevins said.
Charles and Nancy Tankersley, owners of the animals, were both arrested on separate charges in Travis County.
Following the Texas Health Code, a search warrant was carried out at the property and a hearing was conducted within 10 days.
A four-hour hearing was held Aug. 15 before Justice of the Peace Pct. 2 Carl Schoessow and it was determined that the animals were being poorly treated.
Each owner has 10 charges of animal cruelty, which are separate charges from the bankruptcy matter, Nevins said.
The Texas Health Code states that ownership will be taken away from the owners or the owner will pay a fee for the county to board them.
“Once a judge makes this decision, he can take the ownership of the animals away and begin charging a boarding fee, but in this case the owners are in bankruptcy, so the animals are part of the bankrupt estate,” Nevin said.
The Federal Bankruptcy Court then has an automatic stay and those animals can’t be removed.
Currently, the animals are being held at Gillespie Livestock Co. until the stay is lifted and the animals can be placed into foster care or sold. The county is paying for the boarding and for the food.
“How long do you think we have to feed these animals?” Commissioner Billy Roeder asked.
Nevins estimated it would take between 30-45 days to work with the attorney but it could be longer.
Nevins spoke with B. Weldon Ponder Jr., a bankruptcy attorney from Austin who will lift the stay for $1,000 and $181 in filing fees.
Because the past hearing lasted four hours, Ponder expressed concern and would increase his rates another $200-$300. Expedited service would not be needed, Nevins said.
“We do not feel like we can give the animals back to the owners, so we need to go to the bankruptcy court,” he said.
Commissioners agreed to hire Ponder and proceed with the matter.
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