Ben Bolt – The owner of 25 Shih-Tzu dogs that were recently rescued lost ownership of the dogs Friday during a civil hearing.

Judge Luz Paiz, Jim Wells County Precinct 5, signed an order requested by JWC Attorney Michael Guerra that relinquished Claudio Barrera Jr. of all rights to the dogs.

The dogs were awarded to two animal rescue groups that have been fostering the dogs, according to Guerra.

In August, JWC deputies rescued the dogs from inhumane conditions from two of Barrera's properties on Third Street and on Arizpe Street.

Barrera was charged with cruelty to animals due to reports filed by concerned citizens. The charge is a class A misdemeanor and can be punishable with 180 days to a year in jail and a fine not to exceed $4,000. He was arrested, but release on a $10,000 bond.

Barrera's attorney John Perry of Corpus Christi indicated his client would appeal the judgment to the JWC Court-at-Law, Guerra said.

Deputies had approached Barrera in July when the initial report was filed. Barrera was warned about the conditions and the consequences if he failed to improve the animals living conditions. When deputies went for a follow up in August conditions hadn't changed.

The dogs were housed in a “chicken coops” with no adequate food or water. The dogs smelled of urine, had no bedding, and some adults dogs had mange on their faces. There were rusty nails sticking out of the aluminum siding and chicken wire kennel. 

In 2015, Barrera had been fined for running a puppy mill in his backyard, but he was never arrested. According to sheriff officials, Barrera had told them that he would find the dogs in the street and take them home.

This is the second time deputies have seized dogs from Barrera. According to Yolanda Marquez, one of the rescuers, she was told that Barrera had been running puppy mills since the 1980s.

Criminal charges in this case against Barrera remain pending and will be heard separately at a later date and time.