Update: Olive Branch home damaged by fire used as animal shelter

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OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. --  Two people have been charged with animal cruelty after a house fire revealed they were running a animal shelter inside.

Jackie and Donna  Beene are both out on bond, but are scheduled to appear in court later next month.

Investigators say a fire at the Beene's home on Friday killed 60-cats and a dog inside their home on Stonewall Drive in Olive Branch.

While investigators believe the fire started in the kitchen, the fire also sparked action among Olive Branch's Mayor and other top officials. They wondered if it may be time to re-examine animal control ordinances in Olive Branch.

WREG went to the home on Monday, but no one would tell us who owned the home.

"We're not speaking to anybody...we're not speaking," said one woman.

In the front yard there is still a mountain of charred debris left from the fire that killed 60 cats and a dog.

According to the Olive Branch Fire Department, the fire is believed to have started after a burner on the kitchen stove was left on. But they emphasize there's no evidence that a "cat turned on the burner."

It wasn't until after the fire it was learned the owners were operating an animal rescue called New Beginnings Animal Rescue.

The Fire Department described conditions inside as "deplorable."

After hearing about the large number of cats killed, Olive Branch Mayor Scott Phillips decided to have a closer look at the city's animal control ordinance. He met Monday morning with the city's attorney as well as the Police Chief and Fire Chief.

The city's animal control ordinance does limit how many dogs and cats can be kept in a home to four dogs and/or six cats over the age of six months. The ordinance makes provisions for the owners of animal hospitals, clinics and certified animal rescue groups.

Mayor Phillips contends the city didn't know an animal rescue was being operated at the home on Stonewall Drive. He said the regulations regarding sanitary conditions apply to everyone.

"The city ordinance requires that all owners and keepers of animals, keep those animals in a healthy and sanitary condition. And this also applies to individuals, as well as groups, claiming to be animal rescue organizations," he said.

The mayor said he's shocked and saddened by the number of animals killed, but there are still violations that have to be addressed.

"It's clear that keeping any number of dogs and cats in an unsanitary condition, is a violation of the ordinance. As to the house on Stonewall, that's in law enforcement hands," he added.

We have been told by the Olive Branch Police Department they are withholding comment until the investigation is complete.

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