By Brian Maass and Mark Ackerman
LIMON, Colo. (CBS4) – A Lincoln County woman will face sentencing Friday after a jury convicted her of 43 counts of animal cruelty.
Prosecutors say Connie Caswell, and her husband David, kept dozens of dogs, birds and horses in filthy conditions without enough food to eat. While Connie Caswell faces sentencing this week, David Caswell will be tried separately next month.
The Caswells pleaded guilty to a previous animal cruelty charge in 2007.
In an online post, their property was referred to as “Happy Acres Rescue,” but investigators say the couple was breeding dogs without a license and selling them on the internet.
Limon police officer Sean Nielson saw an online ad for a Great Dane puppy and purchased “Yeager” from the Caswells for $350.
“When I went to their property they wouldn’t let me inside the gate,” said Nielson, who sensed something was wrong. “Because of the conditions I almost felt obligated to buy the puppy at that point.”
Nielson said Yeager was so sick he had to give the dog up to a rescue organization that could provide the type of care it required.
In March, 2016, Department of Agriculture investigators searched the Caswell ranch which is 10 miles south of Limon. They found 44 dogs, many of them Great Danes, living among trash heaps in a series of cages, trailers and sheds.
Dead animals were also found around the property.
Inside the home, investigators found trash from the ceiling to the floor, more dogs, a potbelly pig and five exotic birds.
An inspection report noted bird feces in a cage that “had to be several months to years old.”
Puppies had to “lay in their own mother’s feces.”
A pitbull had a tumor “the size of a baseball” on its neck and was being treated with teatree oil.
Workers from the Colorado Humane Society donned protective suits and rescued the animals.
Humane Society investigator Ken Kimsey said the Caswells were offered help before criminal charges were filed, but they refused.
The animals were seized as a last resort.
“You own a pet you need to take care of it,” said Kimsey. “There are always places where you can get help.”
Thirty-four of the dogs were taken to the Denver Dumb Friend’s League.
Five were so sick they died or had to be euthanized.
But, 29 were adopted out to people like Hannah Schmale, who said it was her dream to own a Great Dane.
“I’ve always wanted a Great Dane,” said Schmale who adopted Lilo. “She’s my fur child.”
“I gave her a better home, a better life,” she said. “She’s spoiled. She gets everything she could dream of.”
As for the Caswells, Schmale hopes a judge sentences them to jail time.
“Let them sit in a cage and see what it feels like,” she said.