Animals rescued, woman faces animal-neglect felony charges

Local News

A 65-year-old Muscatine woman faces felony charges after nearly 60 animals were found in a state of neglect.

On Friday, Susan Purcell-Varnell was charged with six counts of animal neglect causing serious injury or death, second or subsequent offense, a Class D felony; and a misdemeanor count of animal neglect.

The investigation

On Monday, May 3, the Iowa state director for the Humane Society of the United Sates asked the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office for a welfare check on animals at a rural Muscatine County residence, a news release from the sheriff’s office says.

A concerned party had contacted the Humane Society.

On the same day, detectives from the sheriff’s office went to the home and found conditions similar to those reported to the state.

Through department records, Susan Purcell-Varnell was identified as the resident who lives at that address.

In 2011, in Fayette County, she was charged with 22 counts of animal neglect and pleaded guilty to one count of animal neglect causing serious injury or death.

Detectives obtained a search warrant and, on Tuesday, with the assistance of Muscatine Police, Animal Control and the Muscatine Humane Society, the warrant was executed when Purcell-Varnell was not there.

Twenty dogs, 29 cats, eight birds, a Guinea pig and a French Angora rabbit were rescued and taken to the Humane Society, where a veterinarian examined them.

All the animals were found, or found to have some sort of condition, defined under Iowa law as animal neglect.

According to arrest affidavits, the rabbit was euthanized because of its condition, and three kittens died after they were rescued.

After it was examined by a veterinarian, a male poodle was determined to have a severely atrophied lower jaw caused by lack of dental care. The veterinarian determined the lack of care led to permanent disfigurement impairing the dog’s ability to eat.

One bird also died because of neglect, an arrest affidavit says.

Purcell-Varnell is set to appear in Muscatine County Court on June 3.

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