Who, age What Where When Last known address
Tammi Jo Sherman, 25 62 caged rabbits, 22 found dead (1)

Perry, IA

Dallas County

June 23, 2006  
Tammi Jo Sherman, 26 35 animals seized, dead mules & a pony found(2)

Perry, IA

Dallas County

December 14, 2007  
Type of Crime Other Crimes #/Type of animal(s) involved Case Status Next Court Date
Misdemeanor   (1) 62 rabbits Dismissed  
Misdemeanor animal neglect (2) 3 ponies, 1 hinny, 17 sheep, 3 goats, 10 donkeys, 2 calves, 2 geese, 1 chicken Cited  

"The Perry Humane Society was called by the county to assist in the actual removal of the animals," said Josh Colvin, animal cruelty intervention coordinator with the Animal Rescue League of Iowa. "The conditions of the animals were not good. The animals were very skinny and at different levels of neglect. There was definitely cause for concern and alarm. The environment was a big issue - there was junk everywhere."

For several years, Dallas County has mandated rural landowners Tammi Sherman and Richard Gittins tend to the environmentally hazardous conditions of one of their properties located at 18047 130th St. near Perry. However, while fines eventually get paid, the environmental threat continues as the mess worsens, according to the Dallas County Environmental Health Department.

In fact, Sherman and Gittins' negligence to the property does not stop with discarded appliances piling up, truckloads of bread bags flying around and 55-gallon drums of unknown materials on site, but with several animals on the farm as well.

"They found another dead mule out there," Dallas County Environmental Health administrator Kathy Witovski told the Board of Supervisors on Monday, March 31. "She was told to bury it, but she didn't."

The dead animal was actually one of several found at the farmhouse by the Perry Humane Society, after an investigation kicked off Dec. 14, 2007, following the report of a dead horse at the property. However, Sherman believes the animal may have been shot by neighboring hunters, but Abby Benifiel, president of the Perry Humane Society, is certain the animal had no bullet wounds, and indeed died of serious malnutrition and parasitic disease.

A Jan. 17 petition for disposition of neglected livestock filed at the Dallas County Clerk of Court approved the official seizure of 35 animals from Sherman's possession, including 2 ponies, 1 hinny, 16 sheep, 3 goats, 8 donkeys, 2 calves, 2 geese, 1 chicken and 1 euthanized sheep. That's when the Perry Humane Society called Colvin for his help to salvage what was left of the livestock at the Sherman farm.

"We took everything that was still alive off the property that day," Benifiel said. "She (Sherman) thought she was rescuing these animals, I think. She collects them, but she doesn't know how to take care of them. She lacked the financial responsibility to adequately care for them."

Although money has admittedly been a problem, Sherman said she's raised several of those animals since she was a kid, and hoped for her children to do the same.  "I've always been a big 4-H advocate," Sherman said. "Ninety-nine percent of those animals had been my 4-H projects from growing up that I have just kept because they'd become pets and friends. Most of them had become very elderly. I kept them around in hopes my kids could use the offspring from my 4-H projects for theirs.

"In my opinion, the animals weren't as bad as they say," Sherman insisted. "We had feed coming for them - high-protein feed. Due to some family medical issues, I wasn't able to afford the feed I wanted, but I went ahead and put off some of my own medical bills to buy feed for them. Some had already arrived by the time they came to take the animals, but they weren't interested in taking any of that feed."

Benefiel said by the time the animals were seized, they were in dire need of a special diet in order for them to recover to the point where they would survive and possibly breed in the future.

After their seizure, the animals were inspected by veterinarian Dr. R. Todd Rosenberry. His findings concluded "the livestock were experiencing varying degrees of neglect and inhumane treatment due to lack of adequate food, dangerous debris in the pastures and enclosures where the livestock were located and lack of adequate water."

Rosenberry further testified that "each animal was displaying signs of chronic malnutrition, including loss of hair, ventral edema (swelling along stomach wall), prominent spinal dorsal processes and general lack of adequate body fat and muscle mass."

The veterinarian chosen by Sherman to refute the county's findings, Dr. Kim Houlding, instead agreed with Rosenberry's diagnosis. Her report stated many of the animals were thin, suffering from untreated illnesses and living in "toxic" and "hazardous" conditions.

"On Jan. 10 we sent one donkey and one pony to Iowa State University for an autopsy," Benifiel said. "They found only skeletal remains on the animals, no muscle mass and critical parasite loads."  However, Sherman questions the results of the necropsy, stating that officials have failed to supply her with the report.  "They never gave me back the report on that, which I asked for so I would know if it was something in the feed or something else that killed them," Sherman said.

The Dallas County Sheriff's deputies who arrived to seize the animals reported there was no water to be seen and insufficient food available for the starving animals.

A Jan. 25 hearing on the matter concluded that the 35 neglected animals be put in the care of the ARL. Further, the order gave the sheriff's office and the ARL the right to the premises at any time to monitor the upkeep of two remaining donkeys that would be returned to the residence after regaining their health under the care of the ARL.

In the end, the order also commanded Sherman to pay $3,000 for the cost of expert witness fees, veterinary bills and for the care and upkeep of the animals.   The fine has not been paid, and is added to more than $3,900 still owed from past incidences of animal neglect.

In June 2006 Sherman (DOB 1/17/81) was investigated for the neglect of 62 caged rabbits, 22 of which were already dead, found in the back of a truck at one of her properties in Perry. The petition for disposition of seized animals reports, "The rabbits were left outside in cages unprotected from sun and without water. When seized, the rabbits were wet with sweat, were not moving around in the cages and were panting heavily. Twenty-two additional rabbits died from heat."

Sherman said she'd only just purchased the rabbits from an auction, drove all night to get home, and then went to sleep assured by a family friend he would tend to their care. Later that afternoon, no care had been given and calls flooded the Perry Police Department concerning the animals.

"Have you ever heard a dying rabbit scream?" said Benefiel. "When those noises started coming out of that trailer, the neighbors started calling. Those rabbits hadn't had any water since the previous day and were left out in a metal trailer during the hottest time of day."

As with the seized livestock, the rabbits were also ordered to the care of the ARL until an August 2006 hearing determined them as "threatened animals" by Magistrate Judge John D. Lloyd. However, the 40 counts of animal neglect, a simple misdemeanor, (Case # 05251 SRCR029850) were later dismissed by Magistrate Judge Paul R. Hulscher (Case # 0521 SMAC048116) on 12/15/06.

Sherman said the animals were purchased for breeding and educational purposes for her children and other local kids.  "I've always been an advocate to encourage kids in 4-H, and rabbits is one of the simpler projects," Sherman said. "Livestock was my entire livelihood. Everything I ever did was wrapped up in them. This has trashed my income and my family business reputation has been totally destroyed."

Colvin and Benefiel said conditions of the 35 seized animals continue to improve. In cooperation with the ARL, the Perry Humane Society has placed the animals in different homes, keeping specific breeds together in respective locations.   11 lambs have been born since the seizure, and Benefiel said "if they'd been born in those conditions (in Sherman's care), none would have survived."

The Dallas County Attorney's Office has not stated whether criminal charges will be filed.

Update 4/2/08:  Sherman's property in rural Perry has gotten the attention of the Dallas County Board of Supervisors as ongoing, non-compliant nuisances to the area.

Dallas County Environmental Health administrator Kathy Witkovski brought the issue to the supervisors Monday, March 31, to inform them of the status of the property, which are now months overdue.

Sherman, has apparently ignored written letters of warning over the past year, calling her into civil court.  Sherman continues to allow conditions on her farm to worsen.

The problem has piled up so much, in fact, that Witkovski expects "multiple tonnages" of waste will be extracted when country crews finally come to clean it all up at an estimated cost of $10,000 for the Sherman property. property.

Sherman was officially cited for the conditions of her property in January 2007, ordered to have it remedied per the county code or appear in court within 30 days. Still, "more waste has accumulated," according to the county ordinance violation filed a year ago.

The problem has only continued, according to the Environmental Health Department, which has supplied documents dating back to November 2006 supporting its claim. Sherman has received multiple extensions from the department, but has failed to properly comply with the ordinances signified: 30.02, Garbage and Refuse; 30.04, Open Dumping Prohibited; and 30.05, Sanitary Disposal Required.

Witkovski told the supervisors she lacks the funds in her annual budget for such clean-up projects, and requested some adjustments be made to accommodate the department on remedying these health hazards. They agreed the department should have a fund for these types of projects in the future.

"I've never had money in my budget for clean-up costs," Witkovski explained in a later interview. "We've always managed to get compliance from most people we've dealt with before. I had to go this route because there was no money in my budget. As Dallas County is growing, we're running into more and more violations. We could fine them $100 a day, but that doesn't make them clean it up. Our goal is to get it taken care of so it doesn't become a severe environmental issue."

However, at this point, Witkovski has several concerns regarding Sherman's property and the adverse affects on the environment, particularly with the abundance of trash accumulating on the land.  Specifically, the Sherman property has plastic bags flying around, getting into nearby waterways.

Witkovski said that much of the waste could be properly disposed of at North Dallas Landfill outside of Perry, which currently has a tipping fee of $28 per ton, but that rate is expected to increase this July to $32 per ton. She brought two different contractors to Sherman's sites to get professional cost assessments for the work involved.

It was decided the property would cost the county about $10,000 to clean up to compliance with both county and state code. Much of the cost has to do with fact that different waste materials require different ways of disposal in order for it to be done properly, and as long as the landowner fail to comply, it's the taxpayers footing the bill.

The Board of Supervisors said they will work with the Environmental Health Department to establish a budget for future projects such as these. For now, they have tentatively planned to move the $10,000 from the general fund over into that budget, and any left over money will remain in that budget for the next year.


Mid-Iowa News