Sheriff: 11-year-old, 11 pets taken from home with 'horrendous conditions'

Published: Nov. 6, 2014 at 2:32 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2014 at 2:32 PM EST
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Paul Howard (Source: Columbia Police Department)
Paul Howard (Source: Columbia Police Department)

COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - An 11-year-old girl and 11 pets were taken from a Richland County couple after the Richland County Sheriff's Department said the family was living in "horrendous conditions."

Sheriff's investigators responded to a home on Iron Spot Circle last Wednesday following an argument between the home's owner, 44-year-old Paul Howard, and his neighbor.

Howard, according to investigators, was stealing electricity from his neighbor. But when deputies went inside the home, they found the animals, who were forced to live in their own feces for several months, and the child.

The child was taken into emergency protective custody and the pets were taken to Pawmetto Lifeline. Vets techs at Pawmetto Lifeline told sheriff's investigators that two of the dogs had mats of hair all over their bodies. One of the dogs lost a limb and had a ruptured eye.

"We do everything for her that we can," Howard said. "We've never neglected her. We've never abused her. We don't spank her. I've gone without eating for her to eat. That's just how I am. I've taken care of my daughter and my wife. I can do without. They can't."

Howard, who spoke to us but declined to appear on camera admits he and his wife had been having money problems.

Their power and water service cut off recently and those troubles leading to issues taking care of the dogs.

"It just overwhelmed us to the point where we couldn't get ahead of everything going on," Howard said. "So we fell behind. And now, it's not like that, it wasn't like that."

Howard said his wife and daughter are both struggling with a form of muscular dystrophy.

Sheriff's deputies arrested Howard and Melanie Howard, 44, and charged them both with unlawful neglect of a child and two counts of felony animal cruelty.

Pawmetto Lifeline is taking care of the dogs.

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