On Monday, May 3, 2021 the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office received a request for a welfare check on animals located at a residence in rural Muscatine County. The request came from the Iowa State Director for the Humane Society of the United States after they had been contacted by a concerned party.
On this same day, detectives from the Muscatine County Sheriff’s Office traveled to the residence to conduct the welfare check. While attempting to make contact with the resident at that address, detectives noticed conditions similar to those which and been reported to the state.
Through department records, it was found the resident at this address was Susan Purcell-Varnell, age 65. It was also found Purcell-Varnell had been charged with twenty-two (22) counts of Animal Neglect and pled guilty to one (1) count of Animal Neglect Causing Serious Injury or Death in 2011 in relation to a Fayette County, Iowa case.
Based on the initial information and information obtained during and after the welfare check, detectives obtained a search warrant. On Tuesday, May 4, 2021, with the assistance of Muscatine Police Department Animal Control and the Muscatine Humane Society, the search warrant was executed. Purcell-Varnell was not present during the execution of the warrant.
Twenty (20) dogs, twenty-nine (29) cats, eight (8) birds, one (1) guinea pig and one (1) French Angora rabbit were rescued from the residence. They were taken to the humane society where they were examined by a veterinarian and currently being cared for.
All animals were located in some sort of living condition, or were found to have some sort of condition, some more serious than others, which are defined under Iowa Code 717B.3 – Animal Neglect.
On Friday, May 14, 2021, Purcell-Varnell was charged with six (6) counts of Animal Neglect Causing Serious Injury or Death 2nd/Subsequent Offense (Class D Felony) and one (1) count of Animal Neglect (Simple Misdemeanor).
A criminal charge is merely an accusation and subjects are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.
Authority: Sergeant Jacob McCleary, Criminal Investigations Division