WILSON — A Great Dane rescue group wants to keep the 28 dogs sheriff’s deputies seized from a Wilson County couple last month and is asking a judge to ban them from getting more dogs.
The group is suing Joseph and Cynthia Williams for ownership of the dogs, which the Wilson County Sheriff’s Office took in an Aug. 23 search of their home on Evansdale Road south of Wilson.
Deputies charged the Williamses with 10 counts each of misdemeanor cruelty to animals after executing a search warrant at the home. Volunteers from the Humane Society of the United States and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Wake County chapter were on hand to care for the dogs.
In its lawsuit filed Wednesday in Wilson County, the Great Dane Rescue Alliance asks for a permanent injunction terminating the Williamses’ ownership rights and a permanent injunction that would prevent them from acquiring any more dogs.
Each of the 28 dogs deputies seized from the Evansdale Road home needed veterinary treatment, the rescue group alleges in its lawsuit. Some dogs had cuts, scars, sores, lesions, enlarged lymph nodes and flea and tick bites, according to the suit. The rescue group claims some dogs were emaciated and one had a distended abdomen “conducive with a belly full of worms.”
Dr. Jay Levine, a veterinarian who examined the dogs, said in an affidavit filed in support of the lawsuit that some conditions he observed are the result of months and years of neglect.
“Many of these health problems were preventable, and with appropriate veterinary care, easily treatable,” Levine wrote in the affidavit.
Levine is a professor of epidemiology and public health at N.C. State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He also is a practicing animal cruelty investigator.
Joseph Williams didn’t return a phone message in time for this story. His attorney, Will Farris, said he has no comment on the lawsuit.
Joseph and Cynthia Williams bred Great Danes and sold the dogs locally and nationally, sheriff’s deputies said. Their business has an “F” grade from the Better Business Bureau and received mixed reviews on breeder rating websites.
Deputies said they began investigating the couple after out-of-state buyers contacted the sheriff’s office with complaints about the dogs’ health.
Calley Gerber of the Raleigh-based Gerber Animal Law Center filed the suit on behalf of the Great Dane Rescue Alliance, which is providing temporary foster homes for dogs.
The rescue group also is seeking to recover costs for the dogs’ veterinary care, food, water and shelter, according to the civil complaint.