Rescuer: South Hero Animal Cruelty Response Would "Stick With Anyone"

SOUTH HERO, Vt. - Eight animals are on the mend at the Humane Society of Chittenden County and HEART Wildlife Removal, both in Burlington.

One of the people who rescued them says it’s an experience she will never forget.

While those animals, two rabbits, four lizards, a hedgehog and a chinchilla, are recovering, eighty others did not survive.

They were found dead in a single side trailer at 51 South Street in South Hero late last week. The deceased animals include rabbits, ferrets, guinea pigs, birds and reptiles.

Grand Isle Sheriff Ray Allen says the owner, Ashleigh Tillson, 30, is facing charges in what police are calling an animal abuse incident.

"I am totally shocked and appalled and upset,” said Cindy Reynolds, who walks by the trailer every day and assumed it was empty. “It's amazing to me that that could happen here.”

Police were called when the landlord noticed the windows were covered in flies from the inside.

The landlord told police Tillson had not been living there for quite some time.

The landlord’s family declined to comment for this story.

“I think it is an experience that will stick with anyone for probably the rest of their life, seeing animals in that condition,” said Devon Krusko, animal care manager at the Humane Society of Chittenden County.

She helped search the home last week for more than ten hours with three other team members from the humane society.

“We were wearing full suits, masks, gloves and boots to protect ourselves,” she said. “There was quite the smell as you can imagine, any time you're dealing with deceased bodies or animals that are decomposing that comes along with an odor and unsanitary conditions."    

Krusko says Tillson purchased many of the animals through rabbit breeders or on Facebook rehoming sites.

"We have been assisting in trying to identify if we have any of the live animals that people had sold so if folks do have questions about that we're happy to assist with that as we can,” Krusko said.

The Humane Society is now taking care of all the surviving animals, except for the lizards.

The lizards are rehabilitating at HEART Wildlife Removal.

“They are doing well. They have settled into their enclosures, are really enjoying having lots of space to run around, eating well,” said Krusko. “We'll be focusing on getting them healthy, gaining weight, socializing them, with the goal certainly that everyone can go up for adoption."

Krusko does not know the age of the animals and declined to say how the others died.

Tillson is scheduled to appear in Grand Isle County Court on October 19th.


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