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Gumbo couple charged with 70 counts of animal abuse

FARMINGTON – A Gumbo couple has been charged with 70 counts of animal abuse following a raid conducted by the Humane Society at their home on June 8. Fred H. Benscoter and Tamara L. Benscoter were charged by St. Francois County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Patrick King with 70 misdemeanor counts of animal abuse on Monday. The Benscoters are facing one year in the county jail, a $1,000 or both for each count.

On Thursday Associate Circuit Judge Thomas L. Ray gave the Humane Society custody of a total of 119 animals, including 70 dogs, that were seized from the home during the raid.

“The Missouri Humane Society along with the St. Francois County Sheriff’s Department served a search warrant at a residence in Gumbo on the morning of June 8,” said St. Francois County Sheriff Dan Bullock. “Approximately 100 animals were removed from the residence. Various stages of abuse were evident including infections, mange and starvation.

Several of the dogs resided in the existing home while the actual occupants were reportedly living in a school bus and a van that were parked at the residence.

An investigator with the Humane Society said that there was eight to 10 inches of dog feces on the floor of the home.

“These living conditions are horrible,” said the investigator. “I’ve done hundreds of rescue operations and this ranks in the top 10.”

The investigator said he had been to the residence a couple of dozen times in the past year and a half and had repeatedly told the owner to make improvements.

“The owner would make improvements and then it would go back down hill,” said the investigator. “At one point I asked the owner if I could come into the house and she told me that I couldn’t come into the house, but she would bring the dogs outside so I could see them. That gave me a pretty good indication that she didn’t want me to see the living conditions in the house. I came down and investigated on June 7 and determined this had to be done.”

The Benscoters were not present at the time of the raid and did not appear at the custody hearing of the animals seized during the raid.

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