GRAPHIC: Ritchie Co. woman arrested after officers find 12 dead animals at home

Officers said she was waiting to gather up all of the dead animals at once to burn them.
Published: Jan. 20, 2022 at 4:07 PM EST
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WARNING: Readers might find the following story to be disturbing.

BRIDGEPORT, W.Va (WDTV) - Officers said they arrived at a Ritchie County home on Tuesday and saw a dead dog and dozens of malnourished animals.

Officers went to the Ritchie County home on Tuesday for Nikki Herner, 33, of Auburn, West Virginia, to give up swine that she owned, according to a criminal complaint.

Officers said they arrived at Herner’s house and saw two malnourished dogs tied up on the side of the driveway with no food or water bowls near them.

Officers also saw “a dead dog with a blue collar in a dog box in close proximity with the other two dogs,” according to the report.

The report says officers saw another malnourished dog on the back porch of Herner’s home with no footprints in the snow, meaning the dogs had not been taken care of since the snow arrived Sunday night, Jan. 16.

Officers said they were able to count 20 swine outside of Herner’s home, but there were also swine inside of the residence that were unable to be counted.

In addition to the swine, there were chickens, geese, ducks, guineas, and a turkey at the residence, none of which had any food or water, according to the criminal complaint.

Officers obtained a search warrant and returned to Herner’s home on Wednesday.

Upon returning on Wednesday, officers said they found two pig carcasses, two chickens, and a dog all dead outside of the home and four pigs, a chicken, a goose, and a dog all dead inside of the home.

In total, 12 animals were found dead at Herner’s home.

Officers said the living animals inside of Herner’s home began eating the snow when they were taken outside, showing signs of thirst.

The living conditions inside of the home were unlivable and covered in feces, the criminal complaint says.

The water and food bowls found were covered in dirt, trash, and turned over, according to officers.

During the search warrant, officers said they heard scratching but could not pinpoint where it was coming from until a doorway was found after moving piles of trash.

Inside of this room, officers said they found one living dog and one dead dog.

Herner allegedly relinquished all animals prior to officers serving the search warrant.

Officers said a total of 76 living animals were seized at the home, including 30 pigs/hogs, 21 chickens, 13 ducks, 7 geese, 4 dogs, and 1 turkey.

When Herner was interviewed by officers, she told them she first noticed deceased animals one month ago, believing there to be only a few dead animals inside, according to the criminal complaint.

Officers said Herner was waiting to gather up all of the dead animals at once to burn them.

Herner also allegedly told officers that she was not living at the home and had recently fed the animals two days prior to law enforcement arrival.

Herner further said that she had no running water at the home but had means of collecting rain water for the animals and that she understood the animal’s needed food and water to survive, the report says.

When officers asked Herner about the dead animals inside of her home, she allegedly said some of the animals died due to reasons beyond her control, including a belief that a neighbor had poisoned two animals, but officers later learned that Herner had not make any reports in regard to the poisoning.

Officers said they had been at Herner’s home two weeks prior to this complaint and told her about available local resources.

Herner has been charged with 12 counts of felony animal cruelty and is being held at North Central Regional Jail on a $12,000 bond.

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