Local News

Wilson County man charged with animal cruelty

Posted July 29, 2008

— An Elm City dog breeder was charged with seven felony counts of animal cruelty on Tuesday, according to the Wilson County Sheriff's Office.

Lester Farmer, 54, of 6612 Bridgersville Road, was charged with one count for each dog seized from his home. The seven Shih-Tzu dogs were bald, infected and diseased. Officials said they could barely recognize the breed of each dog due to its condition.

Wilson County Animal Enforcement officers seized the dogs and transported them to For the Love of Dogs, a non-profit shelter and clinic, at 5146 Quaker Road in Wilson.

“This is one of the worst groups I've ever had the opportunity to help,” said Max Fitzgerald, who operates the shelter.

The shelter is trying to nurse the dogs back to health. All have severe mange, likely caused by months of neglect in a poor environment, according to veterinarians.

“These dogs were in some of the worst shape we've seen,” Fitzgerald said.

National Shih-Tzu groups are working with Fitzgerald’s shelter to take and eventually find adoptive homes for the dogs.

Farmer is being held under a $10,500 bond. He was scheduled for a court appearance Friday.

Maj. Mickey Wilson, with the Wilson County Sheriff's Office Animal Enforcement Unit, said Farmer used to breed the dogs.

“The main thing is, he wasn't getting them medical treatment.... When I asked him why, he said he's trying to treat them some, but he just couldn't afford it,” Wilson said.

Fitzgerald and others said that until recently, similar cases of animal abuse were often brushed aside.

The Sheriff's Office took over animal control in 2007 after numerous complaints, including the handling of a case involving under-nourished hound dogs.

In about a year and a half, officers have investigated close to 30 animal cruelty cases.

“We take these cases very seriously. We've made a lot of felony arrests,” Wilson said.

Also, Fitzgerald’s shelter has significantly increased adoptions.

“It's a totally new day, and it’s fabulous,” Fitzgerald said.

Workers caring for the seized Shih-Tzus believe more aggressive enforcement of animal cruelty saved their lives. The dogs will take months to fully recover.


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  • Tired of your excuses Jul 30, 2008

    Clarisse, I disagree. These are exactly the kind of dogs we have often rescued.

  • Tired of your excuses Jul 30, 2008

    Phil in Wilson, he surrender another dog yesterday.

  • flipper59 Jul 30, 2008

    Phil maybe you should lend him a hand.

  • clarisse Jul 30, 2008

    One more comment about giving them to rescues- its just doesnt work that way. Though what For the Love of Dogs is doing is great, these dogs would NOT be on the top choices of rescues to take in... because of the cost and care that it would take. There is no other place but the pound to turn animals in on a moments notice. If the dog is not immediately adoptable (and if the shelter isnt overcrowded) the dog will be put down...especially in rural areas.

  • clarisse Jul 30, 2008

    This man is not a monster, he has a long term serious illness and has had surgery. His home also flooded. The dogs were not malnourished or unloved, but the mange was out of control. I've worked in rescue and mange isnt easy or cheap to fix. He had been trying to help the dogs. He went to someone for help but was turned in and arrested. If he had turned them into the shelter before now, they probably would have been put down...he loved them and tried to find another way. Sad thing is that there are alot of older ill people out there with no help for their pets...not to mention very limited funding because of their illness or situations that have come up. If you have the money today to do everything for your pet, then thank God because you dont know what tomorrow may bring... Situations like this will probably mean that other people wont try to get help for their pets.... for fear that they too will be arrested and called a "monster".

  • Phil in Wilson Jul 30, 2008

    This guy lives near me. My girlfriend and I, ride bikes by his place all the time! He lives in an old rundown mobile home, with junk cars everywhere in his yard. He finally cut the grass last week, but before that, it was well over a foot high, so evidently he doesn't take care of anything! We could see the puppies from the road when we rode by and could tell something was wrong with them, but had no idea they were that bad! He has a closed in deck on the front of his mobile home and that is where they stayed all the time. Everytime they saw us riding, they would start barking, but I never heard them whining or whimpering like they were in pain, but I'm sure they were. He has another dog (small adult dog) that is always in the yard and chases us everytime we go by, but that dog appears healthy. Will be interesting to see if he was able to keep that one?

  • catwoman1 Jul 30, 2008

    This story makes me sick. Why didn't he ask for help???

  • cabswife Jul 30, 2008

    I'm so glad this guy is facing felony charges. He'll never get what I think he deserves, but atleast the dogs are safe and being cared for.
    I agree that you should not have pets if you can't afford them. The sad thing is, this guys probably made a lot of money breeding these dogs. He just didn't bother putting any of it back towards their care.

  • BLOCKHEAD SQUARED Jul 30, 2008

    A few years back a friend of a friend had an Afican Grey Parrot. Don't really know the story but she could no longer keep the bird, so I took it. Great bird, very friendly and very talkative. Had him for about 6 months when all of the sudden he got sick, I came home from work one day and found him sitting in the bottom of his cage, not a normal thing, I could go to jail if he dies. So I took him to the bird vet. Turns out he caught a cold ? The vet fixed him up real good, bloodwork, antibiotics, vitamin drops, even clipped his wings and nails for me, $475.00 later,,, Holy Krapp !!! I returned the bird to back to her, Vet bills are outrageous so no more pets for me !

  • dogzrock Jul 30, 2008

    For the Love of Dogs is a fantastic rescue organization. Max and Della Fitzgerald are heroes to so many neglected dogs. If you are looking for a new dog friend, please consider looking there. They have so many dogs that need good homes.