Authorities seize more than 600 animals in Hoke County raid; shelter owners charged
Posted January 27
Updated January 28
Raeford, N.C. — 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.