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Slippery Rock couple charged with child, animal neglect

A couple from Slippery Rock Township have been charged with child neglect, as well as multiple counts of aggravated cruelty and neglect to animals, after a January incident when Pennsylvania state troopers found dozens of malnourished and dead animals on their property.

Kenneth W. Hess, 53, and Nicole M. Hess, 39, are facing a total of 115 charges, including 12 felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals, eight misdemeanor counts of neglect of animals and five misdemeanor counts of endangering the welfare of children. Police also filed 90 summary charges covering further accusations of neglect, as well as failure to license a dog over 3 months of age and failure to vaccinate pets for rabies.

State troopers arrived at the Hess household on Jan. 18 this year to serve a search warrant in response to an animal neglect investigation.

The police report states the couple’s five children slept together on a urine and feces-stained couch, in a room which was described as “filthy” with an “ammonia smell (that) burnt one’s nostrils and lungs.”

Butler County Children and Youth Services were summoned to the scene and declared the home unfit for residence.

According to the affidavit of probable cause, the animals included 18 alpacas,10 of which were deceased; one Tennessee Walker horse; three basset hounds, one of which was deceased; two Great Danes; two turkeys; nine ducks; three cats; 17 chickens, one of which was deceased; a deceased duck; one guinea hen; one tarantula; two blue-tongued skinks; and one bearded dragon.

In total, 13 of the 61 animals were dead, and the cause of death was determined to be starvation and exposure. The living animals were found to be “extremely thin” and were removed from the property to receive immediate veterinary care.

A date for preliminary hearing for the Hess couple has not been set yet.

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