JACKSON – (AP) Authorities said a Mississippi man has been charged with animal cruelty a day after surrendering 104 dogs to a rescue organization, but the man denied mistreating the animals.

The Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society of South Mississippi said in a news release that the dogs were in “horrible conditions” in Tylertown with some “sharing cages with the decomposing bodies of dead dogs and puppies.”

James Thornhill

The dogs, mostly Boston terriers, dachshunds, Yorkshire terriers and Chihuahuas, were taken on May 20 to the Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport after the owner signed them over.

The Walthall County Sheriff’s Department said 72-year-old James Thornhill was charged May 21 with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty.

Thornhill told The Associated Press in a phone interview that he was booked and released.

Thornhill said he did not mistreat the animals, but surrendered them to the Humane Society because he can’t afford a legal fight with the organization.

He denied that dogs were caged with dead animals. He said one dog died while he was with his sick wife in the hospital and he hadn’t had time to remove it from the pen. Thornhill said the pens may not have been as clean as usual, but that was because of his wife’s hospitalization.

“There was nothing wrong with any of the dogs. They always had food. They always had water,” Thornhill said. “I haven’t mistreated a dog in my life.”

Stephanie Twining, spokeswoman for the Humane Society, said the group found more than one dead animal, as well as bones from other dogs, but didn’t want to give an exact number because of the ongoing investigation.

The Humane Society said most of the dogs “appear to be severely lacking adequate care, veterinary attention and socialization.”

The dogs that were taken from the property will be treated by veterinarians and screened for adoption.

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