Jefferson County Couple Charged With 186 Counts of Animal Cruelty

JEFFERSON COUNTY, AR (News release) – James and Tara Best were cited and charged with 186 counts of Arkansas Criminal Code Annotated A.C.A. Cruelty to animals.

The couple was cited after Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office (JCSO) Criminal Investigators discovered that at least 186 animals were living in deplorable conditions and some without access to food, water, and much needed veterinarian care. The JCSO, who was assisted by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), executed a search & seizure warrant at 1315 Mail Route Road in Jefferson County, Arkansas, where James and Tara Best were operating “Busy Bee Pets”.

JCSO Investigators and the HSUS located and/or removed approximately 186 domestic, exotic, livestock, equine (horses) from the property.

On Friday, February 28th, James and Tara Best appeared in Jefferson County District 1 Court before the Honorable Judge Kim Bridgforth for an initial appearance. Initial pleas of not guilty were entered and the matter was set for trial on April 29, 2014.

However, on Thursday, March 13th, James and Tara Best accompanied by their attorney, Mr. Birc Morledge appeared in Jefferson County District 1 Court before Judge Bridgforth. Acknowledging that they understood the nature of the charges levied against them and the potential punishment they could receive if convicted of the charges, both James and Tara Best knowingly and voluntarily waived their right to a public trial. In lieu of a public trial, both indicated their desire to enter pleas of nolle contendre to counts 1 through 10, which the court found James and Tara Best guilty of after finding that their pleas were knowingly and voluntarily made. The State’s motion to nolle prosse Counts 11 through 186 was granted.

The court imposed a sentence of one year probation in lieu of one year confinement in the W.C. “Dub” Brassell Adult Detention Center. The court also fined James and Tara Best $2,000.00 each, to be paid in full not later than the March 21, 2014. Also during the term of probation, James and Tara Best are prohibited from owning or possessing any domesticated or wild animals for any reason. The couple is also prohibited from committing any further criminal acts.

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