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Tag: north carolina

Number of animals removed from overwhelmed N.C. shelter rises to 700

The number of animals taken from a no-kill shelter in Hoke County, N.C., has risen to nearly 700.

Hoke County sheriff’s deputies and about 140 ASPCA staff members cleared the last of the animals off the 122-acre property Saturday, officials said Monday.

The state shut down The Haven – Friends for Life shelter on Jan. 27, charging its owners, Linden and Stephen Spears, with four counts of animal cruelty and three counts of possession of a controlled substance.

The Spears, who had been barred from their home by court order, are now able to return, said sheriff’s Capt. John Kivett.

“The investigation is still continuing, and possibly more charges will be brought in the very near future,” Kivett told the Fayetteville Observer.

The ASPCA has taken temporary custody of the animals — more than 300 dogs, 250 cats, as well as horses, birds and pigs — and they are being cared for at undisclosed locations across North Carolina.

Investigators also found the remains of 15 dogs buried on the property.

As of Monday, about half of the adult dogs and 182 cats were in isolation due to respiratory illnesses and other contagious conditions. Ten veterinarians have been treating the animals, some of which have open wounds and some of which appeared malnourished.

“Hopefully, they’ll continue to recover,” ASPCA spokeswoman Kelly Krause said. “We will be making sure they are staying healthy, treating them and making sure they have care.”

Once healthy the ASPCA hopes to make the dogs and cats available for adoption, but that can’t happen until a court determines the custody of the animals, she said.

The next court appearance for the Spears is scheduled for Feb. 10.

600 animals seized from The Haven in N.C.

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Authorities in Hoke County, N.C., yesterday unearthed the remains of 15 dogs on the grounds of a “no-kill” animal shelter from which 600 animals were seized this week.

A day after Hoke County deputies and the ASPCA raided The Haven — Friends for Life shelter near Raeford, authorities on Thursday dug up the remains of 15 dogs that had been buried on the property.

stephenspearmsspearShelters owners Stephen and Linden Spears were released on bond after appearing in court on charges of neglect and possession of a controlled substance, but authorities says more charges against them are possible.

They’ve been banned from returning to the shelter.

Representatives of the ASPCA continued to remove some of the more than 600 neglected animals from the shelter yesterday, taking them to a warehouse near Raleigh where they could be checked by veterinarians and cared for.

ASPCA officials called the raid the largest companion-animal raid they’ve conducted nationwide in the last 20 years.

More than 300 dogs, 250 cats, 40 horses and numerous farm animals were living at the 122-acre shelter in Raeford, the ASPCA said in a press release.

hoke2“What we found today at this facility — self-described as ‘North Carolina’s most successful no-kill shelter’ — is unacceptable,” said Tim Rickey, senior vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response.

“This is one of the largest animal seizures the ASPCA has ever conducted in our 150 years as an organization,” he added. “We have a team of nearly 140 responders on the ground to remove and care for these hundreds of neglected animals who have clearly not been receiving adequate care. Our goal is to help them become healthy and ultimately find them homes.”

The ASPCA’s assistance was requested by the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office, which began an investigation into the shelter after receiving complaints about sick animals and unsanitary conditions.

The Haven was operating without a license for about a decade, according to the ASPCA, and past inspections by the state Department of Agriculture had deemed the facility “inadequate.”

The population at the facility has fluctuated over the years, reaching more than 1,000 animals.

According to the shelter’s Facebook page, it was often seeking donations to improve the shelter, and had recently launched a GoFundMe drive to build roofs over the outdoor pens where dogs were kept.

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The seized dogs, cats and other animals will be held at an undisclosed location, and the ASPCA will continue to care for them until custody is determined by the court,

“The condition of these animals is pressing and required immediate attention,” said Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin. “In addition to protecting Hoke County citizens, law enforcement has an obligation to ensure the safety and well being of Hoke County animals at all times. We cannot and will not allow this type of mistreatment to continue any longer. All persons involved will be held accountable.”

No deceased animals were found on the property Wednesday, but yesterday investigators found at least 15 dead dogs and “dozens” of animals buried on the property, according to WRAL in Raleigh.

(Photos of shelter courtesy of ASPCA; photos of Spears family courtesy of Hoke sheriff’s department)

NC’s first lady supports new charges against former animal shelter director

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A week after Guilford County prosecutors declined to pursue felony charges against the former county animal shelter director, Sheriff BJ Barnes was back before the cameras to announce new charges, and with a new ally at his side.

Barnes announced yesterday that former shelter director Marsha Williams has been served with five new misdemeanor citations for animal neglect.

He made the announcement with North Carolina’s First Lady, Ann McCrory, sitting next to him, and, next to her, Guilford County Board of Commissioners chairman Hank Henning.

Barnes was critical of the district attorney’s decision to not pursue felony animal cruelty charges against Williams and other two other former staff members he says were responsible for “horrendous” conditions at the shelter.

McCrory said she supports the effort and asked the district attorney to reconsider prosecution of the case.

On November 1, the district attorney’s office said there wasn’t enough evidence to pursue criminal charges against the former Guilford County Animal Shelter employees who had been charged after an investigation by the sheriff’s office.

Similar charges have been filed, and are still pending, against Williams and two other employees of the shelter in Davidson County, which was also operated by the nonprofit group United Animal Coalition.

In Guilford County, Sheriff deputies spent several months investigating allegations of animal abuse, mismanagement of funds and potential drug violations.

But officials in the district attorney’s office said the evidence to pursue cruelty charges was insufficient, showing a “systemic failure,” but pointing to no particular culprits who could be held responsible.

Sheriff Barnes voiced displeasure with that decision when it was made.

And yesterday, according to the Greensboro News & Record, he insisted the charges should be pursued, at least against the shelter director.

“Marsha Williams, as the manager, was in complete control. There was no decision made, live or die, without her being involved in the process,” he said.

Barnes also requested the cases in the two counties be consolidated, and be prosecuted in Davidson County.

McCrory, an animal rights advocate, said she’d requested to meet with Barnes to discuss the charges and show support for the case.

“This went beyond anything I’ve ever heard of in my life,” she said. “It’s basically torture. It’s beyond me that the Davidson County district attorney is going to prosecute. If that person has enough to charge and make a case … why don’t we have that in Guilford County?”

(Sheriff BJ Barnes, left, First Lady Ann McCrory, and Guilford County Board of Commissioners chairman Hank Henning; photo by Andrew Krech / Greensboro News & Record)

Woman insists taping dog’s mouth shut was joke

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A Salisbury, N.C., woman insists it was just a joke when she posted a photo of her dog with her snout taped shut, but she has been charged with animal cruelty all the same.

Kimberly Ann Howell, 25, posted the photo above on Facebook, along with these words:

“I warned her. I told her I was going to teach her not to bite the baby again, even play biting. LOL. She so pidiful (sic). I can’t even make her keep it on for five minutes. LOL. She jumped up on me and was like but please mamma.”

howellAmid some critical comments, Howell took the post down, but not before someone — concerned either about the dog or the infant — tipped off county officials, who referred the matter to the Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, the Salisbury Post reported.

A detective questioned Howell, who insisted the dog, a young mixed breed named Leah, managed to quickly get the duct tape off her face. She also insisted the dog was not harmed.

The detective examined the dog and found her to be in good health with no other signs of abuse or neglect.

Howell, however, was charged with animal cruelty, jailed, and later released on $3,000 bond on the cruelty charge and failure to appear for outstanding traffic charges.

Leah was left in the custody of the family after the detective consulted with animal control officials about the case. Howell was told that a follow-up visit might take place to ensure the dog was being treated properly,

Since her initial post, Howell has responded repeatedly to the barrage of criticism she has been receiving online.

“Wow ok maybe I should of said I was joking when posting that,” she wrote on Facebook. “But honestly though people would know better anyone who spend (sic) a week at my house would see how spoiled and loved my dog is. Anyways guess I really didn’t think through but anyone who knows me knows when I got Leah she [was] skin and bones how (sic) that animal abusee (sic).”

(Photo of Leah from Facebook, photo of Howell from Rowan County Sheriff’s Office)

Animal cruelty warrants issued for three former Davidson County shelter workers

marshawilliamsA grand jury returned animal cruelty indictments this week against three former employees of the Davidson County Animal Shelter as investigations continue into allegations of abuse there and at the Guilford County shelter.

Arrest warrants were issued yesterday for Marsha Williams, the former executive director of both shelters, as well as her daughter Dana Williams-King. Also indicted was Marissa Studivent, another director of the Davidson shelter.

Williams also faces two felony counts of obstructing the investigation and one felony count of possessing a controlled substance at the Davidson shelter.

Both facilities were managed by the United Animal Coalition, a Greensboro-based nonprofit that took over operation of the Guilford shelter in 1998, and took control of the Davidson shelter in December.

Both shelters had their licenses revoked by the N.C. Department of Agriculture in August.

The indictments stem from claims that the three women neglected to provide humane treatment to a dog admitted to the Davidson shelter in May with a broken back, the Greensboro News & Record reported.

The dog had been diagnosed with paralysis from the shoulders down, but she languished in her kennel for three days with no veterinary care before being euthanized.

That was the incident that sparked an investigation by the state Department of Agriculture, which found abnormally high numbers of animals had died in their kennels at the Davidson shelter.

The Lexington Police Department has been investigating the shelter, as has the federal Drug Enforcement Agency.

Despite the indictments, those investigations remain ongoing, as does a a separate investigation into the Guilford County shelter, by the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office.

(Photo: Marsha Williams, by Lynn Hey / Greensboro News & Record)

Sheriff department’s dog raffle called off after flood of complaints on social media

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The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Department in North Carolina has been holding a dog raffle for years, but this year’s contest has been called off after a flood of criticism on social media.

The raffle, held to raise money for the department’s canine unit, is part of the county fair and it offers a chance to win a German shepherd pup for $1.

But after posting details of this year’s raffle on its Facebook page, the department drew thousands of complaints — most of them calling the contest irresponsible and objecting to randomly awarding a dog to a family that had not been screened first.

“I’m sure this is being done with good intentions. However, please reconsider,” one resident wrote. “You have no way of knowing what kind of home this pup will go to… Perhaps you could pair up with the local shelter and do a fundraiser with them and in turn encourage residents to adopt from the shelter.”

Cleveland County Sheriff Alan Norman did not comment on what precautions might be taken to screen the raffle winner when contacted by the Shelby Star.

But Captain Richard Acuff later said the sheriff’s office has used a screening process in the past, including a visit to the winner’s house to make sure it’s a safe environment.

Nevertheless, on Friday, the sheriff’s office posted notice on its Facebook page that the raffle was cancelled:

“The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office has cancelled the raffle for the German shepherd puppy that was going to be raffled at the Cleveland County Fair. Our original post did not state that in the past years we have required the person that won the drawing to be subjected to Cleveland County’s Animal Adoption Policy.

“Due to the overwhelming outcry we have teamed with a reputable 501.C3 animal rescue that has agreed to help in finding a suitable owner for this puppy… The Sheriff’s Office will be looking into other fundraising projects to help support our K-9 program. If you purchased tickets you will be contacted and your money will be refunded.”

A spokesperson for a local animal rescue group says the raffle is risky because the puppy could end up in the wrong hands.

“Just because someone can afford a dollar for a raffle does not mean that they can afford lifelong care for an animal,” Brianna Duffy, a spokesperson with Catering to Cats and Dogs told Fox 46 News.

“We rescue a lot of dogs that have been used as bait dogs, dogs that have been sold to any person on the side of the road to just have it for their own personal use, which is not positive,” she added.

A GoFundMe page was set up Friday on behalf of the sheriff’s department.

Posted by The American Pit Bull Foundation in Charlotte, it seeks to raise enough funds to cover what the sheriff department would have made through the raffle.

Another N.C. shelter accused of cruelty

stokesshelter

Another North Carolina animal shelter has come under fire from the state Department of Agriculture — this time the county-operated shelter in Stokes County, where an investigation found dogs were being inhumanely euthanized.

The Veterinary Division of the North Carolina Department of Agriculture released documents Friday showing inspectors found credible evidence that shelter director Phillip Handy and employee Darryl Sheppard “performed, participated in and/or witnessed the inhumane euthanasia of multiple animals that involved improper euthanasia administration.”

The allegations, now being investigated by the state Bureau of Investigation, include putting down one dog by gunshot, failing to confirm the death of an animal, and improper disposal of an animal. The report also accuses the two men of putting dogs down prior to the 72-hour holding period.

The shelter (pictured above) is located in a cinder block building in Germanton.

The division revoked both Handy and Sheppard’s certifications to perform euthanasia, and both have been relieved from duty, according to Stokes County Manager Rick Morris.

This summer has also seen the Department of Agriculture revoke the licenses of animal shelters in Guilford County and Davidson County, citing a “systemic failure to care for animals.” Both were run by the United Animal Coalition under contracts with the counties.

And last week, news surfaced of a dog at the Forsyth County Animal Shelter being mistakenly euthanized.

The Stokes County shelter was closed for two weeks in July, for what county officials said was state-ordered maintenance and repairs.

County Manager Morris assured the public then that animals housed there at the time would not be euthanized.

The revocation notice from the state — instructing the shelter to cease all euthanizations — was issued two days before the temporary closure.

Animal advocates in Stokes County have been working to improve the shelter and are raising funds to open a new no-kill shelter, with around $180,000 raised so far.

(Photo: By Jennifer Rotenizer / Winston-Salem Journal)

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