UPDATE: Animals from hoarding case surrendered to district attorney

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LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – The couple who have been jailed on animal cruelty charges after a massive hoarding case reached a deal with the Lauderdale County District Attorney.

They handed their 200 animals over to the state Monday night.

“We reached an agreement with both of the Sherwoods to surrender the animals, so we’ve got that behind us,” said Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly.

Animal control officers seized the animals on Jan. 30.  Laura Fitterman Sherwood and her husband Pat are still in jail. They’re facing multiple charges including animal abuse.

Documents show this wasn’t the first time investigators  witnessed this level of abuse from Laura Sherwood. Wayne County Sheriff Ric Wilson said the case he dealt with in 2007 was just as disturbing. The American Kennel Club also banned her from owning dogs for ten years after a similar case in Florida.

“Our plan with her is to at some point have her evaluated to determine what her mental status is due to this hoarding that she has a real history with,”  Connolly said.

Pat Sherwood has his own criminal history, including failing to register as a sex offender.

“Mr. Sherwood has some charges maybe pending in Tennessee as well as the charges we have. We’re going to try to coordinate his prosecution with Wayne County authorities,” Connolly said.

Connolly said they had to reach an agreement with the Sherwoods in order to make sure the animals were kept safe.

“Some will be offered to some folks that Mrs. Sherwood suggested that we’re going to check out,” he said. “We’re certainly not going to turn any over to anybody that’s going to be abusive or neglectful to them.”

Connolly has confirmed some of the animals are going to rescue groups, like Singing River Equine Rescue and P.A.W.S. He says the rabbits are set to go to the Lauderdale County Coroner and rabbit breeder Andy High.

Animal advocates have reached out to us, concerned that the rabbits are going from one breeder to another.

“As an educator for the House Rabbit Society, I am terrified that these rabbits may be in a worse environment than they were before,” said Connie Cowan of Vestavia Hills.  Cowan is an educator and long time volunteer with the House Rabbit Society, an international non-profit organization that promotes rabbits as companion animals within the home.

Cowan said that she is pleading with Connelly to release the rabbits to the Lauderdale shelter in Florence so the House Rabbit Society can facilitate transport of the animals to rescue groups.  The rescuers will ensure that the rabbits are adopted into safe, indoor homes.

However, that’s not part of the legal agreement reached by the DA.  We’re looking into the agreement to determine if anyone is profiting from this hoarding case.