GREENVILLE, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – A Texas couple is accused of using their five adopted children as slave labor.
Jeffery and Barbara Barrett’s neighbors said for years they thought something was off with the couple, but were shocked to hear allegations that they put their kids to work at their suspected illegal puppy mill behind their house.
When the Rodriguezes moved next to the Barretts eight years ago, they said they’d see them all the time.
“The kids were going to school with us for awhile, maybe a year or so, and after that they didn’t go to school anymore,” Saul Rodriguez Jr. said.
Rodriguez Jr. said the Barretts started to change and rarely saw the couple’s five children.
“The parents didn’t want us around them,” he said. “They never left the house. They just didn’t want to interact with anybody. One time there was a ball that went over to the side of their house and they yelled at us for trespassing.”
A metal barn behind the Barrett’s house filled up with dogs cramped in cages.
“It was just constant barking all day and all night,” Jovani Rodriguez said. “There was a bad smell.”
“The area where the animals lived was filthy,” SPCA of Texas Vice President of Communications Maura Davies said. “It was just covered in feces and urine and the animals’ physical conditions were also not good. Their coats were overgrown, matted and covered in feces. This looked to me very much like a puppy mill. There was a lot of rehabilitation for this particular group of animals.”
Alongside the Hunt County Sheriff’s Office, Davies said SPCA of Texas was able to seize more than 100 dogs from the Barrett’s property last September.
“They just came in, cops jumped the fence and they went behind the house,” Rodriguez said. “They surrounded everything and took all the dogs.”
The Barretts are now accused of using their kids, three boys and two girls ranging in age from 12 to 17, to run the suspected illegal puppy mill.
They’re charged with continuous human trafficking and animal cruelty.
“It was kind of hard to hide,” Rodriguez said.
The Texas Department of Child Protective Services reports the Barrett’s children were removed from their parent’s care around the time the animals were taken from the home.
The children are now in the foster care system.
The Barretts are expected to be in court in the next couple of days.
Davies said all of the dogs have been adopted into loving homes.