Animals that were seized in a case of alleged animal cruelty will be returned to a Van Zandt County man because of a procedural mistake by the district attorney's office.
Attorneys discovered the mistake during jury selection and reached an agreement to return three donkeys and 63 cattle to the owner. Under the agreement, the Van Zandt County Sheriff's Department will visit the property to monitor the animals' condition over the coming months.
Investigators said the animal's owner was glad the animals were being removed. He told them he had been out of town and had paid someone to care for the animals.
"The condition that these animals are in did not happen overnight; it took months," said Ann Barnes, of the SPCA of Texas. "It will take months -- and a lot of good food and care -- to get them back into condition."
Maura Davies of the SPCA of Texas said the decision to return the animals was "shocking."
"We are hopeful the animal's owner will work to nurse these animals back into good health," she said. "We believe the sheriff of Van Zandt County will continue to monitor the situation very closely."
The animals have been cared for at the SPCA's McKinney facility since being seized on Feb. 26.