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More charges expected after dog carcasses exhumed at raided Hoke shelter

Posted January 28, 2016

— A day after Hoke County deputies and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raided an animal shelter near Raeford, authorities on Thursday dug up the remains of dead animals that had been buried on the property.

Representatives of the ASPCA also continued to remove some of the more than 600 neglected animals from The Haven – Friends For Life shelter, taking them to a warehouse near Raleigh where they could be checked by veterinarians, be fed and be cared for.

The ASPCA said "dozens of deceased animals" were found buried throughout the 122-acre property.

"Part of the process here has been collecting evidence, and in that process we have discovered a number of deceased animals in multiple locations throughout the property that had been discarded," said Tim Rickey, a field inspector for the ASPCA. "Our teams are going through and uncovering and documenting that."

Shelter owners Linden and Stephen Spear were released on bond after appearing in court on charges of neglect and felony possession of a controlled substance – that charge is related to a type of animal medication – but authorities said they expect dozens more charges to be filed against the couple as the investigation unfolds.

ASPCA officials called the raid at The Haven the largest companion-animal raid they've conducted nationwide in the last 20 years.

Officials said they had received complaints about sick animals being adopted from the shelter. Animals were kept in dirty cages, kennels, outdoor pens and paddocks, they said, and many had no protection from the elements.

The Haven was operating without a license for about a decade, according to the ASPCA, and past inspections by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services deemed the facility “inadequate."

Because the Spears' property is still considered a crime scene, the couple was not allowed to return to the site Thursday. So, they were staying at the Southern Pines home of Nancy Moore, a long-time donor to The Haven who said authorities are mischaracterizing the Spears.

"When you go into a no-kill shelter and people drop animals off at your gate, you're going to have animals that have been hit by cars. There is no animal that is not treated by a veterinarian. These animals are given shots when they walk in the door," Moore said.


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  • Larry Hatch Jan 31, 2016
    user avatar

    Bad operation. Needed to be shut down. Still...legally ASPCA is a direct competitor with all other shelters and thus should have been outside the site because of these conflicts of interest. In some states, ASPCA are sworn officiers and carry guns. Not so in NC. Might one ask the Rescue Mission to take on homeless persons mistreated by another shelter. Yes. But would they be entitled investigative powers and legal access to the criminal premises. And my lawyer friends will say...

  • Shelly Thompson Jan 29, 2016
    user avatar

    I don't understand the difference, Nicolle. These animals were dying slowly and painfully. Dogs were in pitiful conditions and also buried on the property (illegal) so they were trying to cover it up. That's intentional. Read Amy Carey's comments...she was there. There should definitely be fines, jail time and they should not be allowed to have animals. However, I also believe that the Department of Agriculture should be held accountable as well. They apparently did inspections (according to this article) and did nothing.

  • Nicolle Leney Jan 29, 2016
    user avatar

    I'm sure the 11 dogs that starved to death in Kenly (http://www.wral.com/couple-sought-after-dead-dogs-found-in-kenly-home/15288667/) would have been happy to trade that for the conditions here, however poor, rather than slowly starving to death abandoned in a house with no food, no heat, and no water.

    For commenters vilifying this couple or calling for jail, there is a difference. These people were TRYING to HELP. There's a huge difference between "neglect" because of the situation getting out of hand and "neglect" because you're a heartless person who leaves your dogs to die a slow painful death of starvation (or from lack of water, or to freeze to death). Obviously there's still neglect either way, but please keep things in perspective.

  • Marcia Maloney Jan 29, 2016
    user avatar

    I saw this story on the news last night and it broke my heart to see the condition that these animals were in. They should have been removed from this shelter years ago. The pain and suffering of these animals were down right disturbing. This couple should be charged with a stiff penalty and never allowed to have an animal again. If you cannot take on the responsibilities of caring for an animal, you shouldn't have one. I hope some of these animals can recover and eventually start having a life that they so much deserve

  • Amy Carey Jan 29, 2016
    user avatar

    I don't think she meant to hurt the animals. I think she got in over her head, and she is a little out there anyway. I don't like her way of handling things, and when I volunteered there in the late 2009 time period, there were dog crates stacked in the barn that animals hadn't been out of in days. She said quarantine, but I said hell. How can you get well stacked 4 high with the heat and no fresh air, dirty cage and no exercise? She tried to play god and it has backfired on her. She should have taken help when she had the opportunity, instead of insisting that she knew best.

  • Lori De Stefano Jan 29, 2016
    user avatar

    These two look a little loopy - I'll never understand how a person can deliberately hurt a living creature - man or animal - I hope since animal abuse is now a Federal offense that they both get 20 tears or worse

  • Vera McGraw Jan 28, 2016
    user avatar

    Karma is what you make... bad news for these people....