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Dogs locked in cages without food or water, horse carcasses rotting in sun discovered at Texas ranch, prompting arrest: 'The whole property just smelled like death'
Composite screenshot of FOX 4 Dallas-Fort Worth YouTube video (Pictured: Rachel Ann Sword, suspect)

Dogs locked in cages without food or water, horse carcasses rotting in sun discovered at Texas ranch, prompting arrest: 'The whole property just smelled like death'

A woman in Texas has been placed under arrest after dozens of dead horses and dogs were discovered at a ranch reportedly under her control.

Animal cruelty had been suspected at a ranch in Westminster, Texas, about 50 miles northeast of Dallas, for some time. Dating back to 2019, police had received reports of alleged animal cruelty at the property at least 15 times.

Recently, police had received yet another report regarding animal maltreatment. Landscapers who had been doing work at the ranch called authorities to claim that they had seen the decaying remains of several animals.

"The whole property just smelled like death," said Alston Mays , one of the landscapers. "Cages everywhere. Dead animals everywhere." He claimed that the stench was so foul, it made him "want to throw up."

Mays, a self-professed animal lover, documented what he saw on his cellphone and shared the images with law enforcement. He told WFAA he wanted to be sure that "something happens" to those responsible.

On Tuesday , officials with the Collin County Sheriff’s Office and Animal Control Department executed a seizure warrant at the rural ranch. In doing so, they learned the true extent of the abuse.

Dozens of dogs were discovered dead inside cages without any food or water nearby. Others had been forced into crowded kennels without shade from the hot Texas sun. In all, 24 dogs were found dead on the property.

There were also 12 dead horses as well, and investigators have good reason to suspect that most of them have been dead for a while. "The decay on the horses ranged from completely skeletonized to partially skeletonized with skin and fur, generally indicating the deaths were not recent," the affidavit said.

The ranch is reportedly owned by an elderly couple who are no longer physically able to maintain it. When questioned, they told police that they thought their granddaughter, 22-year-old Rachel Ann Sword, had assumed responsibility for managing it.

Sword and her daughter live in an RV located on the property. She allegedly admitted to police that she understood that she was supposed to be caring for the animals but claimed she had been suffering from "depression" recently on account of her husband's suicide, which occurred three weeks ago.

She claimed that the depression was so debilitating that she could not bring herself to feed the animals. Some of the dead dogs from the property had reportedly been discovered in cages inside Sword's RV, the affidavit alleged.

Several animals were also found alive on the ranch: two dogs, two horses, a cow, a bearded dragon, a snake, and two frogs. They have all since been taken to an animal shelter.

On Friday, Sword was arrested and charged with one count of cruelty to a non-livestock animal, a third-degree felony, and one count of cruelty to livestock animals — physical abuse, a state jail felony, jail records show. Her bond has been set at $85,000.

"Collin County is committed to ensuring the safety and welfare of all animals throughout the county, and incidents such as this are taken very seriously," said a statement from the sheriff's office. "The Collin County Sheriff’s Office has a zero-tolerance policy regarding the abandonment or cruelty to animals."

It is unclear into whose care Sword's child has been placed. The property owners did not respond to a request for comment from CBS News Texas.

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