A Benton woman was arrested on Friday for 23 counts of animal cruelty, authorities said.
As of press time, 48-year-old Dorothy Rhonda Braithwaite remains in the Saline County jail with a $2,500 sheriff's bond. She is expected to appear in Benton District Court on Nov. 13.
Lt. Kevin Russell, public information officer for the Benton Police Department, said there is no indication that Braithwaite was selling the animals or part of an illegal "puppy mill." He said authorities do not anticipate any more arrests; however, the investigation is continuing.
Russell said that on Wednesday Arkansas Department of Correction officers were in the 700 block of Latimer Drive in Benton searching for escaped inmate Curtis Reese Jr. — who has family in Saline County — when they discovered a home "that appeared to have a large number of animals in it without electricity or a caretaker." Benton officers responded to the home and gathered information that allowed them to obtain a search warrant.
Russell said what officers found were animals living in deplorable conditions.
"They found dogs and cats in cages stacked all throughout the residence," he said. "They found one dead, and the other 22 were found in very poor condition. There were no utilities at the home to provide heat or air conditioning, and they were covered in excrement. Additionally, there was no evidence that the animals had been given any food or water in some time."
Russell said that officers discovered that the Braithwaite was living in the home, but they were unable to locate her that evening. On Friday, Braithwaite voluntarily surrendered at the Benton Police Department, was questioned by detectives and then was charged with the 23 felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty.
Russell said the dogs and cats were transported to the Benton Animal Control facility for care.
Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to call the Benton Police Department at 778-1171 or 315-TIPS (8477). Individuals also may send an anonymous crime tip to CRIMES (274637) with the keyword BNPD in the body of the text.