Homeowners charged with animal cruelty in house fire that killed 60 cats, 1 dog

Published: Mar. 31, 2015 at 6:41 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 31, 2015 at 10:33 PM CDT
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OLIVE BRANCH, MS (WMC) - Two homeowners now face animal cruelty charges after their house caught fire, killing 60 cats and a dog.

Olive Branch Police Department filed the charges Tuesday against Jackie Beene and Donna Beene. Investigators say the case against the Beenes is strong.

The two were members of the New Beginnings Animal Rescue.

Their house caught fire on Friday, March 27. Fire investigators believe one of the cats managed to turn on the stove, which eventually caught the kitchen on fire.

Since the Beenes are part of a rescue, they are not bound to follow city ordinances on how many animals they can have, but criminal investigator Major Cox says that wasn't the issue in this case.

He says the conditions the animals were kept in forced investigators to file charges against the Beenes. Investigators say the home was a hoarding house filled with clutter and feces.

"He usually had a bunch of dogs in their backyard and I could tell he wasn't home a lot and they would stay outside," Cherise Edwards, who lived near the Beenes, said.

She says she is sad to hear the animals were living in bad conditions, but she's happy someone stepped up to make sure it gets cleaned and corrected.

"It's sad for him [Jackie Beene], but it's good because in the grand scheme of things it's unhealthy to be living in that situation with that many animals," Edwards said.

Major Cox says this should serve as a reminder to everyone that it's important to take care of your animals.

"Those animals are depending on you to see to their needs. They should be cared for in an appropriate manner."

Jackie and Donna are currently out on bail and are due back in court on April 9.

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