A Greenville, Texas couple have been accused of despicable crimes that involve both child abuse and animal abuse. Jeffery and Barbara Barrett’s neighbors grew suspicious of the couple’s activities when their five adopted children were suddenly not seen outside anymore. When police investigated, they discovered an illegal puppy mill at the home, with 100 abused animals living in filthy conditions.
The Barretts’ children were being used as slave labor to care for the animals.
One of their neighbors, Saul Rodriguez Jr., explained why they became suspicious, telling CBS 11: “The kids were going to school with us for awhile, maybe a year or so. After that they didn’t go to school anymore.”
Rodriguez added: “The parents didn’t want us around them. 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.”
With the growing number of dogs occupying the Barretts’ metal barn in their backyard, neighbors began reporting the bad smell and constant barking.
Maura Davies, the vice president of communications for the local SPCA noted of the building that housed the animals: “It was just covered in feces and urine,” adding that “the animals’ physical conditions were also not good. Their coats were matted and covered in feces.”
Authorities note that the Barretts were allegedly beating and forcing the children, whose ages ranged from 12 to 17, to run the puppy mill.
According to arrest warrant affidavits obtained by the Greenville Herald-Banner, the children told authorities that the Barretts hit them with plywood, bamboo sticks and brushes and four of the children had “marks, bruises and open wounds in different stages of healing.”
Deputy Criminal Chief Kirsta Leeburg Melton, who leads a unit in the Texas attorney general’s office dedicated to combating human trafficking, explained: “This is one of [the first cases] — if not the first case — involving child labor trafficking in the state of Texas.”
The couple were charged with continuous human trafficking and animal cruelty. The children were placed in foster care, and the animals have been placed with families.
Among the many comments left on social media about the case were those who believe the couple should face a serious punishment. One person noted: “Take them and shove them in the cages they used to hold those poor dogs captive. And walk away. The kids, get them all the help they need. And shame on the adoption agencies for not checking up on the kids after they are adopted. Geez I keep in touch with most of the people that have adopted my cats!”
Another commenter shared: “Horrible people make life so hard for so many innocent people. Too bad kids and animals usually get the worst. Sometimes kids learn this and carry on the family tradition of stupidity. Hope the kids and puppies are going to be okay.”
One person tried to wrap their head around the situation, remarking: “Humans are the worst! I don’t understand how? How on earth can you hurt a child? Or an animal who only wants love? They will give their life away for those who treat them right.”