The SPCA of Wake County says adoptions and medical procedures for dogs surrendered in an alleged puppy mill bust in Jones County have been put on hold after the dogs original owners, who have been charged with 63 counts of animal cruelty, were granted a bond hearing that temporarily puts the dogs fates in limbo.
Eighty-eight dogs, surrendered on March 14, are being housed at the local SPCA shelter and at the Guilford County Animal Shelter. They will remain there until the hearing, scheduled for next week, decides whether the dogs can be adopted out this month or if they must wait for the animal cruelty trial, scheduled for June.
The dogs were originally surrendered by George Brown of Trenton, who said the dogs belonged to him. But his wife Joyce later came forward and claimed part ownership of the dogs, contending that her husband lacked the authority to give them up.
The Browns went before a Jones County judge last week to request a bond hearing an action that determines the amount of money to be posted in order to care for the dogs. That legal maneuver also freezes the dogs in the shelter system, blocking the shelters housing the dogs from adopting them out to permanent homes.
The SPCA maintains that the order also means that shelters are prohibited from performing medical procedures on the dogs. Some of the procedures planned include the removal of tumors and bladder stones, oral surgeries to remove rotting teeth, and treatment for heartworm-positive dogs. A third of the 67 dogs at the Wake County shelter were either receiving pain medications or antibiotics to fight infections, and the shelter says they will continue to provide that care.
Calley Gerber of the Gerber Animal Law Center in Raleigh said the implications of the Jones County case are troubling.
The impact that it has on shelters when you cant rely on a surrender form is devastating, she said.
The Browns claim they were not running a puppy mill, but SPCA spokesman Mondy Lamb says despite the terminology, there was cruelty involved.
No matter if its termed a puppy mill or animal hoarding, either way the law was being broken, Lamb said. The terminology can be decided later, but what is not up for debate is the conditions the dogs were living in, which were inhumane and which were documented by law enforcement officials. When this case goes to court, this evidence will be presented. Until then, our most pressing concern is the health of the dogs.
Lamb, who also praised the work of the Jones County Sheriffs Department in the case, said she is confident the cruelty charges will stick in court.
This is one of the worst cases weve seen, Lamb said. There is a line where unmitigated neglect becomes cruelty, and that is what happened here.
The surrendered dogs are mostly long and short-haired Chihuahuas and long and short-haired dachshunds, French bulldogs and pugs. Many of the dogs were originally slated to be eligible for adoption on April 2.
Lamb said because the 67 dogs cannot be adopted out quickly, it also hinders the shelters ability to take in other dogs needing help.