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Woman arrested in animal cruelty case leaves jail

LAWRENCEVILLE - A Snellville woman accused of animal cruelty earlier this week after about 50 neglected and malnourished cats and dogs were found on her property has been released from jail on $10,000 bond.

But what will become of 19 dogs, 25 cats, four flying squirrels and chipmunk that were impounded from the home of 57-year-old Sylvia Simmons is still unknown.

According to Animal Control Officer T.S. Stephens, most of the animals were suffering from health problems. None of them had been euthanized, but Stephens didn't rule out that possibility.

The animals were taken to a veterinarian Friday to be examined and treated. There are about four Shar-Pei dogs and 10 poodles, Stephens said. The cats are of no distinguishable breed.

"The Shar-Peis are a little aggressive. The poodles are friendly. A majority of the cats are friendly," Stephens said.

Some of the animals are in such poor health that they may not survive, said Officer L.S. Shields, spokesperson for the Gwinnett County Police Department.

"Other animals have ailments that would prevent them from being candidates for adoption," Shields said. "Their level of health and the quarantine period would determine when they will be able to be adopted."

For now the animals are under quarantine at the Gwinnett County Animal Control shelter off Hi-Hope Road in Lawrenceville.

Simmons could not be reached for comment on Friday because her phone number is unlisted.

Officers responding to neighbor complaints of foul odors on Wednesday paid a visit to Simmons' house at 2673 Hewatt Road in Snellville to investigate. Upon gaining access to the house, they found 19 cat carcasses and the skeletal remains of at least three others scattered about.

Nineteen dogs and 25 cats were on the property. Simmons also had four flying squirrels and a chipmunk. A dead raccoon in a plastic bag was found inside a freezer on the back porch.

Family friend says Simmons

needs sympathy, help

Simmons' arrest has left some people with questions about why anyone would try to keep so many pets.

Lisa Bates, a friend and business associate of Simmons' adult son for the past eight years, said Simmons has been "very mentally upset and off-balance" since the deaths several years ago of two of her sons. One died from drug abuse and the other was killed by a DUI driver, Bates said.

"What it seems to have done is to make her want to cage everything that is dear to her," Bates said.

Four years ago, Bates was appalled when she went into Simmons' house and found it in disarray. Almost 100 pets were using the entire house as their litter box, she said. Bates brought the matter to the attention of Simmons' son and thought the problem had been fixed.

Bates said she sympathizes with Simmons even though she believes the woman stole her dog, a black pug, when she was out of town in May 2005. According to Bates, her dog was one of the many animals impounded from Simmons' home by Animal Control this week.

She was allowed to pick up the pug from Grayson Veterinary Hospital on Friday after it received a health checkup. The dog appeared healthy, although it weighs twice as much as it did when she last saw it, Bates said.

A DNA test was pending to prove that the pug belongs to Bates.

She doesn't want to press charges, but Bates worries that soon Simmons will begin "collecting" pets again if she is not institutionalized or jailed.

"I feel in my heart that she'll be right back at it," Bates said.