Crime

Orange County asks for patience and public’s support for 57 seized dogs and puppies

Fifty-seven dogs in limbo at Orange County animal shelter are taking up a lot of space.

On Wednesday, county officials asked the public to delay surrendering animals to the shelter if possible and that anyone thinking of getting a pet consider adopting from the shelter. It is running a “Name Your Price” special on other dogs and puppies at the shelter at 1601 Eubanks Road in Chapel Hill

Animal Services has not euthanized any animals to make room for the 57 new dogs and puppies and doesn’t plan on doing so, officials said.

Until the owners surrender the animals seized last week or the court settles the cases, the dogs are not available for adoption. If they become eligible they will appear on the shelter’s website under “Available Dogs & Pups” at www.orangecountync.gov/287/Available-Pets.

“One thing we’re asking people to do is to just have patience,” said Tenille Fox, Animal Services spokesperson. “This is a massive number of dogs to take in at one time.”

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Three of the 57 dogs seized by the Orange County SheriffÕs Office from a breeding operation received medical care at the Orange County Animal Shelter while court proceedings determine their fate in felony charges against their owners, on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Chapel Hill, NC. Casey Toth ctoth@newsobserver.com

Cruelty investigation

The dogs and puppies were seized from two properties off Alexander Drive just north of Chapel Hill on Friday, after the Orange County Sheriff’s Office received reports of malnourishment and unsanitary conditions.

Taylor Doar, 33, and his mother, Cynthia Riggan, 65, are charged with felony cruelty to animals.

Officers began removing the dogs around 2 p.m. It took six or seven trips to take all of them to the shelter, ending around 10:30 p.m., said Bob Marotto, Orange County’s Animal Services director.

It is costing the shelter $1,026 a day to house and care for the 57 dogs, Marotto said.

The county has asked that Doar and Riggan be required to pay for the dogs’ care. There will be a court hearing on this Oct. 29.

“Immediately, we are ensuring that they are receiving the medical care that they need,” Marotto said. “We will continue to hold the dogs at the Animal Services center until there are some decisions made by the courts.”

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Three of the 57 dogs seized by the Orange County SheriffÕs Office from a breeding operation received medical care at the Orange County Animal Shelter while court proceedings determine their fate in felony charges against their owners, on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Chapel Hill, NC. Casey Toth ctoth@newsobserver.com

Bulldogs, mastiffs and more

Most of the dogs are either French or English bulldogs or mastiffs. Twenty-five are either puppies or juveniles, and many of them have illnesses and medical conditions.

“There were some that were underweight,” Marotto said. “There were a number that had skin conditions. Others had conditions with their eyes. There were fleas and internal parasites.”

One female still had an umbilical cord attached from recently giving birth.

The dogs’ illnesses vary, and some will need treatment for a while, but Marotto said many of the dogs are well-behaved.

“My strong sense at this time is that they will all recover and become well suited to rehoming,” he said.

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One of the 57 dogs seized by the Orange County SheriffÕs Office from a breeding operation received medical care at the Orange County Animal Shelter while court proceedings determine their fate in felony charges against their owners, on Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, in Chapel Hill, NC. Casey Toth ctoth@newsobserver.com

The situation being investigated fits the parameters of a “puppy mill,” Marotto said, not high quality breeding. Unlike animals seized in past hoarding or dogfighting cases, these dogs were most likely being bred for profit, especially in the case of the French and English bulldogs, he said.

At a reputable operation, “you would not expect an agglomeration of animals in the number that we encountered,” he said. “Nor would you expect a variety of breeds that are being bred on the same premises by the same person.”

There are no N.C. laws to protect dogs in puppy mills, but commercial breeders in the state must pay a $50 fee for a breeding license.

While the dogs’ future is unclear, Fox said both money and pet supplies like food and blankets would be helpful while the court case ensues.

To contribute to the care for these dogs and others housed at the Orange County animal shelter, go to https://bit.ly/2OTRRy8

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Trent Brown covers the Town of Cary and other odds and ends. He graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2019 and is a Collegiate Network fellow.
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