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Keep Houston Press Free
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Ever Wonder If Your Kid's Teacher Runs a Puppy Mill in Her Spare Time?

A former grade school teacher has been charged with animal cruelty after sheriff's deputies and SPCA workers seized 106 abused and neglected dogs from her East Texas home Monday.

The dogs were allegedly "forced to live in their own filth inside a feces-filled, urine-soaked home on the property" near Athens, according to the SPCA of Texas.

The woman charged, 59-year-old Deborah Eckeberger, was already on probation after an animal cruelty conviction in October. She taught kids from primary grades through sixth grade over the years at the Athens Independent School District -- until Wednesday morning, when she tendered her resignation, AISD Superintendent Blake Stiles told us.

The SPCA also alleged that "most of the dogs are suffering from eye discharge, flea infestation, long nails, severely matted fur and skin conditions. Approximately 60 of the dogs were confined to crates, and some crates included up to seven dogs."

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The SPCA also claims that "the stench of ammonia was so intense that investigators wore personal protective equipment, including breathing apparatuses, while inside the home," which begs the question: Didn't any of her fellow teachers, or students, ever ask, "Hey, Ms. Eckeberger, why do you smell like you are the alleged proprietor of a piss-soaked doggy dungeon?"

Henderson County court records show that she was charged with animal cruelty last February and pleaded either no contest or guilty in October. She was sentenced to a year's probation and 50 hours of community service.

She was also charged with public intoxication September 16, but no other information on that charge was available. We called a number listed in several online directories as belonging to Eckeberger, but the man who answered it said we had the wrong number. We'll update accordingly.

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