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Budget problems allowing people to get away with animal cruelty

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GREENSBURG - A lack of resources and a low budget has the Chief Deputy in St. Helena Parish saying his area is a place where people may get away with animal cruelty.

Chester Pritchett points to a recent example where a horse was found still tied to a tree with his bridle attached to his skeleton. He says his office constantly receives dozens of complaints.

"They don't care for the animals," Pritchett said. "They don't get them vaccinated, and they just turn them loose on the community."

Pritchett said no one has been arrested in that case, and it's the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the problems they have.

Another example he cited, was a couple arrested for animal cruelty. Robert Ellis and Sherie Giuliante were picked up after a complaint was made about one of their dogs. The dog was ultimately seized, and it was in such bad shape both eyes had to be removed. Now, the couple has even more complaints against them. The allegations facing them now include dogs dying in their care.

"This is not uncommon," Pritchett said. "These people have a record with us. We've arrested these people before, and I will follow up on this complaint."

We went looking for answers as at their trailer home off Otis and Willie Matthews Road. Our crew had to step over trash, a soiled diaper and filth just to get to the door.

Sherie Giuliante answered. Although she talked to us for a while, she declined to do an on-camera interview. She said that she doesn't abuse animals and the original charges against her were dismissed. She said that all of this is being cooked up by people who don't like her. Then, she demanded that her home not be filmed. Then followed that up with a phone call to WBRZ-TV saying she was afraid her kids might be taken away due to the filthy conditions.

"We are going to investigate this complaint about the puppies," Pritchett said. "I feel sure it's valid. But, we need the evidence and they will be charged with additional crimes."

As the sheriff's office deals with the enforcement problem, voters in the parish have consistently turned down giving the agency any more money. Three weeks ago, they turned down a tax that would have increased the Sheriff's budget by $500,000.

"The sheriff's office, we have no funding for animal care, and there's no funding in the parish for animal care," Pritchett said.

The St. Helena Parish Sheriff's Office said it's running on such a bare-bones budget right now, it had to lay off their Chief of Operations. They say, getting help fighting the animal cruelty complaints typically comes from outside parishes like Livingston and Tangipahoa.

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