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Durham woman charged after dozens of dogs seized from home

Posted August 10, 2015

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— A Durham woman faces criminal charges after dozens of huskies and malamutes were seized from a home three weeks ago.

Sandra Dee Lehto, 53, of 614 Sybil Drive, was charged last week with 28 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals. She has been released on an unsecured bond.

A deputy with the Animal Services Division of the Durham County Sheriff's Office responding to a July 21 complaint about two dogs running loose on Sybil Drive noticed a strong smell of urine and feces coming from 614 Sybil Drive, heard barking inside the house and saw dogs with matted fur in pens in the backyard, authorities said.

The deputy obtained a search warrant and found 31 dogs on the property, authorities said. Lehto surrendered custody of the animals, and they were taken to the Durham County Animal Protection Society for veterinary exams.

"When they first arrived, it was obvious that they were coming from a very bad situation," Shafonda Davis, executive director of the animal shelter, said Monday. "They were covered in urine and feces, and they were very, very thin."

Three of the dogs have since died, and half of the survivors had heart worm disease and intestinal parasites.

Davis said county officials are working with husky and malamute rescue groups to help care for the dogs.

"Many of them are special-needs (dogs), and they are going to need a lot of care and rehabilitation," she said.

After they receive the needed care, the dogs will be put up for adoption.

13 Comments

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  • Chase Truman Aug 11, 2015
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    You're delusional and I hope for the sake of animals everywhere you never own a pet... but I am with Kathryn in saying that if you are actually on the side of this vile and neglectful woman then I am worried for what operation you probably have yourself.

    Wake up and get a clue. If these animals died after they were taken from this evil owner, it's only because they were already beyond the point of being saved no matter what the vets did. I am going to hope that you are somehow mentally ill to side with this woman, because the only other option is that your are inhumane and ignorant. "She can personally file abuse charges against officials"?? Are you insane? Those rescuers were the best thing that could have ever happened to those dogs. SMH

  • Kathryn Adams Aug 11, 2015
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    Yes, that's absolutely her right, I agree. And when this goes to trial she can explain to the judge why the dogs on her property were starved, covered in filth, suffering from heart worm disease and intestinal parasites.

  • Clarence Hill Aug 11, 2015
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    Ms. Adams, the dogs were not in an accident; they were at home. I repeat, the lady needs a good lawyer so justice can begin. She can personally file abuse charges against officials and, then, let the Durham County DA's office do their job. End of discussion.

  • Kathryn Adams Aug 11, 2015
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    Ridiculous. If someone's in a car accident and dies in the emergency room, would you try to say the emergency room caused the death? You missed this part of the article, "They were covered in urine and feces, and they were very, very thin." The fact that you've jumped to the defense of a woman who was obviously incapable of caring for dozens of animals makes me wonder what kind of breeding operation you've got going on at YOUR home.

  • Miranda McCraw Aug 11, 2015
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    So you're saying the police should just leave the dogs in a clearly abusive environment? Being at APS could be the first medical care they've ever received, plus they have adequate food, shelter, temperature control, and loving staff and volunteers to care for them. Clarence, I hope you can take a few minutes to stop by and visit APS. You'll see it's a pleasant and safe place, with animals who are well cared for.

  • Clarence Hill Aug 11, 2015
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    Miranda: Law enforcement violated the same law when they took the dogs with "limited resources" inadequate to provide proper care for the dogs. Remember where the dogs were when they died. Dog pounds are the worst place in town for spreading disease. In this case, good intentions won't get it. The dog-catcher folks have a problem.

  • Miranda McCraw Aug 10, 2015
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    Clarence, did you hear the parts where she said the dogs showed evidence of standing in their own waste? The former owner shouldn't be allowed to own animals again. Kudos to APS for taking in all the dogs and caring for them with their limited resources.

  • Clarence Hill Aug 10, 2015
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    First mistake: the owner surrendered the dogs. Now the dogs are gone and she has no chance of getting them back or restitution. Big, big mistake. Sometimes authorities catch breeders off-guard--without legal advise--and promise they will not be prosecuted if animals are surrendered. Many breeders have bought that "BIG LIE" in the past. Did I hear dogs have DIED? Abuse charges should be filed against those that were in charge of the care of the dogs when they died. NC's abuse laws work both ways. Apparently, when the dogs were taken--authorities were not prepared to care for the animals--so some died of neglect. Fact: The breeder needs a good lawyer who knows how to ring this "BELL".

  • Jim Hugs Aug 10, 2015
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    I think he meant to type dogs napping. If you can get dogs to sleep all the time then people will buy them.

  • Sian Brown Aug 10, 2015
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    These dogs all need homes. If you're interested in helping out, adopting, fostering etc check out what I found on Facebook.

    https://m.facebook.com/melanie.kohr?fref=nf

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