NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) - On several cases, during our ride-alongs with Animal Services, it seemed impossible not to swoop up the animals and rush them away to the shelter to safety, but it's never that simple.

The officers must use a body conditioning scale that ranks the animals physical condition (showing ribs, etc. ) to help dictate whether the animal must be seized.

In most cases, officers make every effort to work with the animal and its owner to improve the situation rather than take the pet. Resources at the shelter are limited, and there's no guarantee the animal will get adopted, in which case it would have to be put to sleep.

But that doesn't mean officers give owners the easy road when they see poor conditions.

"With some people, they have a sense of entitlement cause you're telling somebody they're not taking care of their animals and in turn, they're telling you, 'If it wasn't for me those animals wouldn't be alive,'" said Deputy Trott.

When Deputies Trott and Parker responded to reported concern over an abandoned trailer off Wrightsville Road, they found four cats inside mountains of filth and just barely surviving.

Their owner still owned the property but had let it fall into complete ruin. She told Parker she regularly tended to the animals at the trailer but with piles of feces, trash and bugs her claims had little validity.

"I took out the search warrant, made forced entry to the residence and immediately witnessed a very, sickening situation," Parker said. "Feces everywhere, no food present, a little water in a bucket. Bugs everywhere, there was mold. Clearly, nobody had lived there for quite some time."

Parker discovered that no one had lived on the property for three years - except the cats who appeared never to have had any vet care. They were emaciated, flea-infested and full of mites.

A call to Animal Services asking for help could have prevented her arrest. Instead, Bobbie Jo Barnes was taken to the New Hanover County Detention Center with four counts each of cruelty to animals, abandonment of an animal and failure to vaccinate. She was placed under a $10,000 bond.

"The whole time I think she thought we were going against her trying to care for the animals when it was actually just the opposite," Trott explained.

Barnes later pled guilty to all counts of cruelty and signed the cats over to Animal Services. For a year she is forbidden from owning any more cats.

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