More than 60 dogs from a southern Sampson County kennel were surrendered to sheriff’s deputies and workers with the Humane Society of the United States Tuesday afternoon following a months-long probe into suspicions of cruelty at the facility.
The sheriff’s office served a search warrant on the property and found a variety of small-breed dogs suffering from a multitude of untreated medical conditions.
“This case is a prime example of why North Carolina badly needs to pass legislation requiring mandatory standards of care for large-scale breeders. We need stronger laws on the books to prevent someone from forcing dogs to spend their lives in misery and squalor,” said Kim Alboum, North Carolina state director for The HSUS. “The Humane Society of the United States is grateful to the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office for taking action to rescue these animals.”
HSUS officials descended upon Sampson County, and eventually the Royal Acres Kennels Tuesday morning, starting at the Sheriff’s Department, then a staging area at the U.S. 421 rest area and finally the cinder block buildings located less than a mile from Delway.
Sheriff’s officials, blue lights shimmering off rain-soaked pavement, flanked the kennel as HSUS workers, some of them veterinarians, county animal control and investigators executed a search warrant at the 12301 Taylors Bridge Hwy. location.
The kennel is owned by Roger and Marilyn Hall. No charges have been filed, and the Halls are currently working with authorities to place the animals that were surrendered.
Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Pope also noted that the Halls were cooperating with the investigation and had already met some of the stipulations laid out earlier this year following a site visit and inspection.
Investigation into the kennel began last summer when puppy purchasers filed complaints regarding conditions at the facility.
“In massive breeding operations, dogs are often subjected to deplorable conditions and lack proper medical care. It is heartbreaking to see these dogs in such poor condition,” said Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton. “I am grateful to The Humane Society of the United States and the other organizations that stepped forward to assist with the care and temporary housing of these poor animals.”
Documents released by the Sheriff’s Department show that an HSUS investigative team visited Royal Acres on Aug. 3 in response to a citizen complaint of sick dogs at the facility. “The most notable conditions at this time were the 70-80 dogs housed in a cinder block building with no ventilation,” documents noted.
The investigator noted the ammonia levels were “so high that their eyes were burning.”
HSUS and Dr. Jay F. Levine, a N.C. licensed veterinarian, along with officers from the Sheriff’s Department, went back to Royal Acres on Aug. 17 to make an inspection of the facility. The vet examined a limited number of dogs, and the report noted that of the dogs examined, the vet found “significant medical conditions that were a result of long-term neglect and failure to provide medical attention by licensed veterinarians. According to Dr. Levine’s report, “many dogs were suffering from significant medical conditions.”
Among the conditions noted were: a number of animals appeared to have alopecia (hair loss); one animal could not stand and displayed hind limb paralysis; and the majority of animals that were examined displayed evidence of extensive dental plague, tarter, dental decay and gum disease.
Mrs. Hall was advised during that visit that she must provide the necessary veterinary care for the animals that were identified as either sick or injured by Dr. Levine, the report noted.
Then, on Jan. 24, local animal control officers went to Royal Acres to conduct a follow-up visit, but reports show that Mrs. Hall refused to allow them on the premises. The report further states that she failed to provide proof of a veterinary exam and treatment of the animals by a licensed veterinarian.
An animal control officer, along with HSUS staff, executed an inspection warrant at Royal Acres on Feb. 15. At that time, the report shows, the overall conditions of the two main cinder block kennels were in fair condition, although it was noted that some of the enclosed area that the dogs had access to had areas of rust and mold that “could potentially be a concern for young puppies.”
The report further stated, “the first building we inspected was the ‘puppy’ building. This building was filled with about 20-25 cinder block kennels with chain link doors trimmed with PVC pipe.” Some 50-60 dogs were in the building. “Many of them were puppies.
“She also housed approximately 10 adult and senior dogs that clearly had medical issues ranging from ruptured tumors, severe skin irritation, puss-filled mouths, etc.”
The report notes that there were some extreme cases witnessed during the inspection and Hall was instructed to have those dogs seen within 24 hours.
The report on the Feb. 15 inspection also noted that over 100 dogs were observed in a second cinder block building. In addition, the report noted there were a total of seven or eight structures on the site, of which only two were inspected.
Following that inspection, HSUS officials mounted an action plan, including work to obtain a search warrant, set up temporary shelter for any dogs that were seized and finalize teams that would be dispatched to Sampson County.
Those teams arrived around 8 a.m. Tuesday, armed with the search warrant and at least one tractor trailer and several smaller vehicles for the possible transport of animals taken from the kennel.
The HSUS, SPCA of Wake County and Guilford County Animal Shelter have safely transported the dogs to a temporary emergency animal shelter where they will be thoroughly examined by a team of veterinarians and receive any necessary immediate medical treatment. PetSmart Charities is providing the necessary food, supplies and enrichment items for the dogs. North Carolina Veterinary Medical Association assisted with recruitment of veterinarians to provide the dogs with much needed medical care.
The HSUS has established a reward program to offer up to $5,000 to anyone who provides any information leading to the arrest and conviction of a puppy mill operator for animal cruelty. Persons wishing to report a valid tip are encouraged to call 1-877-MILL-TIP and will remain anonymous.