Animal shelter shut down, director charged with 285 counts of animal cruelty

HELENA, Ark. — A Mid-South animal shelter has been shut down after police uncovered dogs covered in urine and feces.

According to the Helena-West Helena Police Department, former volunteers of the Humane Society of the Delta tipped officers off about cases of animal abuse and neglect happening at the shelter located on Phillips Rd. in Helena, Arkansas.

Those former volunteers relayed tales of animals being mistreated, neglected and sometimes even physically abused by workers. They said that several of the dogs they helped relocate to other facilities suffered from heartworms and other parasites, as well as parvovirus.

On Thursday, Helena-West Helena police officers and members of the Phillips County Sheriff’s Department executed a search warrant and went in to check out the animal shelter for themselves.

Officials said that they found nearly 240 dogs and 45 cats.

Many of them were malnourished, police said, and some were even suffering from open wounds which showed signs of infections. Many of those animals, according to authorities, were standing, sitting and lying in their own feces and urine. Rats, both alive and dead, scattered the property, police said.

Trash cans overflowed and garbage was seen strewn across the property as well, police reported.

But, those conditions weren’t reserved to the outside animal dwellings, according to the Helena-West Helena Police.

Police said they entered a mobile home on the property where director Reta Merritt Roberts lives with her family, including a small child. There, inside the mobile home, police reported seeing what appeared to be animal excrement and urine, as well as several rats, throughout the house.

The small child even had multiple insect bites, police said.

Roberts has been charged with 285 counts of aggravated cruelty to a dog, cat or horse, a Class D Felony in Arkansas.

Thursday afternoon, Helena-West Helena Mayor Kevin Smith pleaded for volunteers to help care for the nearly 300 animals now in need of food, water and love.

“Please come out today, if able. Others are here to review what you can do, and how to do it. Please help if you can! TY,” Mayor Kevin Smith wrote.