Local News

Authorities seize more than 600 animals in Hoke County raid; shelter owners charged

Posted January 27, 2016
Updated January 28, 2016

— The owners of a Hoke County animal shelter have been charged with abuse after the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals helped authorities conduct a giant raid that resulted in the seizure of more than 600 neglected and mistreated animals.

Linden and Stephen Spear, owners of The Haven – Friends For Life, face several neglect charges after authorities seized more than 300 dogs, 250 cats, 40 horses and numerous farm animals. They were also charged with felony possession of a controlled substance, investigators said. The substance is a type of medication used to treat the animals.

According to Capt. John Kivett with the Hoke County Sheriff's Office, the investigation began because of public complaints.

"We had a complaint, us and the ASPCA, for animal neglect out here on their property," he said. "We are conducting a search warrant. We are just into the initial investigation to see what kind of condition these animals are in."

Although the investigation was in its early stages Wednesday afternoon, the team on site determined that several animals had been neglected.

"You've got animals out here with open wounds, obvious skin conditions. Animals that appear to be malnourished," Kivett said.

ASPCA officials said they had received complaints about sick animals being adopted from the facility. Officials said animals were kept in dirty cages, kennels, outdoor pens and paddocks, and many of them had no protection from the elements. Officials said Wednesday's raid is the largest companion-animal raid they've conducted in the country in the last 20 years.

Tim Rickey, senior vice president of ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, said what his staff members found at the facility is "unacceptable."

“This is one of the largest animal seizures the ASPCA has ever conducted in our 150 years as an organization," Rickey said in a release. "Our goal is to help them become healthy and ultimately find them homes.”

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

ASPCA officials will work over the next several days to remove the animals and provide medical attention to animals that need care. The ASPCA will continue to care for the animals at a temporary shelter until custody is determined by a court.

“The condition of these animals is pressing and required immediate attention,” Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin said in a statement. “In addition to protecting Hoke County citizens, law enforcement has an obligation to ensure the safety and well-being of Hoke County animals at all times. We cannot and will not allow this type of mistreatment to continue any longer. All persons involved will be held accountable.”

Linden and Steve Spear have been taken to the Hoke County jail, where they were jailed under $5,000 secured bonds.


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  • Janet Ghumri Jan 28, 2016
    user avatar

    Such a sad case. I agree that the owners had their hearts in the right place, but became overwhelmed with the sheer number of animals who are in need of re-homing. I've volunteered at the Wake Co. SPCA, and it is heartbreaking.
    There are some real losers out there. I remember multiple cats and dogs (with black fur) who were surrendered because their 'family' had just redecorated with white /ivory furniture! It's enough to really make you mad. Who ditches a family member because their fur will show up on the new sofa?? It's not like they didn't realize that the dog /cat they 'LOVE' has further that color. Sickening

  • Debbie Sawyer Jan 28, 2016
    user avatar

    Hoke County Sheriff....give it a rest. You've known about the Haven for years. Tons of complaints. You got interested when social media finally got involved.

    I have no doubt the "owners" have mental issues but this never should have been allowed to happen.

    And the animals aren't necessarily "saved". People need to step up in the community (Hoke and elsewhere) and get involved. Waiting for someone else to "do something" gets us more places like The Haven - and YES, I am a volunteer so I speak from experience.

  • Susan Harward Jan 28, 2016
    user avatar

    I agree with Karma FairyForYou. I have previously read that people would just dump their dogs or leave them tied up at the gate at The Haven. Rescuing is emotionally hard. Knowing how many animals are being killed every day in NC is heartbreaking. Not all shelters euthanize humanely either. Animals are gassed or killed by heartstick. SAD!! Knowing that you are quite possibly their only hope to make it out alive is so hard. NC needs to have stricter laws on spaying and neutering. I believe these people were doing their best to care for these animals. People shouldn't judge too quickly. And all the people making comments about how the Spears look - shame on you!

  • Chance Loria Jan 28, 2016
    user avatar

    The State of NC should be held liable for this. They've known it was going on for many years and did nothing but send a couple letters. There are letters referencing 2010 & 2013 inspections that were unsatisfactory and that they had too many animals; stating the facility was not acceptable in 2010 and had gotten even worse fbetween the two inspections. And the state never took action until recently due to complaints? How many animals suffered for years due to the state's inaction? All state regulators who knew about this and turned a blind eye should be charged as accessories.

  • cuffslover Jan 27, 2016

    I could not be happier for these animals! This is has gone on to long and the authorities have known and given them every chance to change it. She continued to scam folks for money and did nothing to help the animals...Happy it is over for them.

  • Jacob Smith Jan 27, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    The comment by Karma Fairyforyou is nothing short of a GREAT comment - recognizing "real life" issues facing those who would try to help the lost animal waifs AND issuing a challenge to all that would "throw the book" at these people -

    WHAT have YOU done lately?

  • RockaFella Naylor Jan 27, 2016
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Good comment. Hope their story gets better. No kill shelter needs help even if its networking and sharing.

  • Real Libertine Jan 27, 2016
    user avatar

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    Karma, I agree with you. Folks who set these havens up often have bigger hearts than they have the actual wherewithal to manage these noble endeavors. And when it gets away from them, they don't how to ask for help. I hope all the animals are rehomed in good health quickly.

  • Marcia Maloney Jan 27, 2016
    user avatar

    These animals should have been removed a long time ago They should have never amounted to 600 - that is way too many animals to handle . If they were removed earlier, they wouldn't be needing medical attention. I agree stricter laws need to be in place especially the capacity of animals per square footage of the shelter. I'm sure this couple thought they were doing right but, had no knowledge of running an animal shelter

  • Amanda Callahan Jan 27, 2016
    user avatar

    instead of blasting this place, how about doing something to help? I think a lot of animal rescues get overwhelmed with animals and try their best.....
    Unfortunately the main problem that leads to this is when people do not spay/neuter their pets, or decide that they magically cannot keep their pet once they have children or move somewhere else.
    I hope that other agencies step in and help to care for the animals and that they are not euthanized.
    @WRAL, I would love to know where we can donate supplies/time to help.