STONE COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - The attorney for the woman accused of hoarding more than 100 dogs said she plans to turn herself in to Stone County authorities Thursday morning. Sheriff's officials said they plan to charge Shirley Gai with misdemeanor animal cruelty and 117 counts of animal neglect which are also misdemeanors.
WLOX has learned the Stone County seizure was not Gai's first brush with the law. She was accused of similar offenses in two other South Mississippi communities, Waveland and Lumberton, in the last seven years.
Two shelters and two animal clinics are now caring for the animals. Shelter officials said this is the worst case of hoarding they've ever seen.
As pitiful as they looked, the 70 rescue dogs at Southern Pines Animal Shelter can count themselves lucky. Shelter officials said what they found at a Stone County home was shocking.
"After we got the live animals out, we began doing a more thorough investigation," said Operations Manager Katherine Sammons. "We found dozens and dozens of black garbage bags stacked up beside the home and once we started opening those bags, unfortunately, we did find dozens of dead dogs."
The Hattiesburg shelter spent Wednesday getting the surviving dogs ready for in-depth health evaluations, but many of their problems were clearly visible.
"They all have the mange. A lot of them have other skin issues as well. Flea dermatitis," said Sammons. "Several of them are very emaciated. They've got problems with their teeth. They've got ear infections."
The Stone County SPCA in Wiggins took in 30 dogs. To make room, the shelter had to find people willing to foster the dogs it already had.
"As soon as they got here, they were bathed with antifungal shampoo," said Stone County SPCA President Katie Stonnington. "You could smell them. The smell of fungus was strong smelling. Yeast infections."
Workers at both shelters say taking in so many dogs will stretch their resources. They need the community to help with volunteers, and donations of money and supplies.
Stonnington said, "We have them, I am confident, for a solid two months because we cannot adopt out an animal that is in this condition. We can't transport an animal that's in this condition to another facility to adopt it out. Our question is, what are we going to do with the dogs from Stone County that are going to be coming in now?"
Shelter officials said the good news is that it appears most of the conditions are treatable. So there is hope of finding good homes for the dogs.
Meanwhile, Shirley Gai's attorney released this statement to WLOX:
"Gai has a long history of rescuing animals and working for animal rescue organizations. Many of the animals at issue were placed with her by different animal rescue organizations/shelters with pre-existing health problems. She looks forward to an airing of the facts of this case, and moving forward."
If you'd like to make a donation to the groups treating the animals, you can reach them by phone or online:
Southern Pines Animal Shelter
Stone County SPCA