Local News

Hundreds of dogs seized from Wayne Co. puppy mill

Posted February 6, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— Wayne County animal control authorities seized hundreds of dogs Friday from what they say is a puppy mill.

Rescuers found 283 dogs, including Lhasa apsos, shih tzus and chihuahuas, housed in filthy conditions at Thornton's Kennels in Mount Olive. According to its Web site, the kennel also breeds Pomeranians, Yorkshire terriers and miniature dachshunds.

puppy mill Dogs seized from Goldsboro puppy mill

Many of the animals were emaciated, had untreated cuts, severely matted fur and skin and eye infections, animal control said.

The county has filed a civil injunction against the kennel's owner, Virginia Thornton, accusing her of "willfully and intentionally depriving the animals of a proper living environment."

The rescue is the culmination of a yearlong investigation, Wayne County Animal Control Services Director Justin Scally said.

Authorities said the animals were also being housed in unheated cages inside unventilated barns and outhouses.

Rescuers were working to provide the animals with medical treatment Friday morning. They will remain in the custody of Wayne County animal control pending final custody decisions. A hearing is set for Tuesday.

If a judge rules in favor of animal control, the animals will go out to rescue groups and humane society groups across the region for rehabilitation and adoption, said Jordan Crump with the Humane Society of the United States, which assisted in Friday's seizure.

Information about how to adopt a dog from the seizure will only be available if and when they are placed in animal control's custody.

"We're very hopeful these dogs will be part of a loving family in the near future," Crump said.

Puppy mills are commercial dog-breeding operations that mass-produce puppies in factory-style settings for sale at pet stores and over the Internet.


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  • anne53ozzy Feb 10, 2009

    Want to adopt these older ones? Please understand that it is extremely difficult to housetrain a dog that has been in a crate all of her/his life. They will make great pets in time so full of unrequited love and need ofr affection. It breaks my heart. BUT pls know it is a big job to get them into a home routine where they understand the potty thing. I have a pup that was kennel born and she is still hard to train at 11 months. They will also eat their feces routinely. Be ready b-4 you take on these lovely creatures. Worth the effort times 1000 or more...Just need to know

  • JustOneGodLessThanU Feb 9, 2009

    ncsuhunter, what do you do with all of the "leftover" puppies that your dog has? I'm sure you find all of them good homes and ensure the new owners spay/neuter, right? lol

  • FoxtrotUniformCharlieKiloakaCALM Feb 6, 2009

    With dog adoptions at a ridiculous high level it's no wonder more people go to breeders. I tried to go through a rescue and i went through more trouble trying to get a rescued chihuahua than i did a government job. (or getting a mortgage). I ended up going to a breeder, however, if the breeder wouldn't let me see the parents or where they were raised... why would you ever consider it? I dealt with an excellent breeder in Kenly, saw where they lived, the parents, the rest of the pups, she was even available after the purchase. a lot of breeders deal in cash, it's not for tax issues, it's because you can't trust anyone nowadays to be good on a check, check bounces, you lost a dog.

  • ncsuhunter Feb 6, 2009

    Cocker mom...your thought process is interesting...you immediately assume that I have no idea what I am doing and have no idea how to raise a litter of puppies and yet you have no evidence to support that...I've been around and raised hounds all my life...I am close to many vets in the area and have their full support

    When I breed my shih tzu it won't be to "improve the breed" it will be to have another dog that my family can love and to be able to remember our Princess forever by carrying on her legacy.

    A breeder that is a only a recreational breeder that wants to breed a dog to LOVE and have as a FAMILY member won't require you to spay or neuter their dog. Spaying and neutering your dog has just as many consequences as it does helpfulness, to think differently is naive and uneducated. Spaying and neutering should be choice and not forced upon anyone. If I want to breed my registered Shih Tzu to another registered Shih Tzu to ensure her bloodline continues I should be able to.

  • dxedame Feb 6, 2009

    Good point.."call your SPCA call the Animal Defense league call everyone."
    Add a few political officials to the m ix as well.

  • pamslaff Feb 6, 2009

    Wake County Animal control was a great place to get my little dog. I have always had only great experiences from "the pound". I would love to adopt one of these poor little dogs. Its amazing with a bit of love and understanding how far a dog will go. As far as the comments about people adoption and pet adoption... no comparison...get real. Yes, we have poor parents out there that shouldnt take care of butterflies, but we need to keep an eye and ear out for children. Help children and pets. They have no voices. these are tough times, pull together, if you cant help out...DON'T COMPLAIN!!!

  • thefavoritefishy Feb 6, 2009

    My mother bought a maltese from her in early September and I can say that he took a while to come out of his shell and develop his personality because he was so unused to playing and being around people, but he was very easy to house train to the point that it was almost like he already was, and he's a fantastic dog with so much personality now. We were glad to see on the news today this lady got busted. If they can't make a case for the puppy mill they can make a case for tax evasion. She only deals in cash. Common sense says she doesn't report any of it. That would be a good way to get her to prevent this from happening again.

  • AtALost Feb 6, 2009

    Carygirl, I'm sure you believe your dog is a good dog. I've never heard any owner say "yeah, I figured he'd maul someone someday". They are always shocked and amazed when the "family friend" hurts or kills someone. Since Pits have been bred for fighting for years, I'm not confident they can overcome the behavior so easily.

  • AtALost Feb 6, 2009

    CrazieCrafter, please post the info for your breeder in Kinston.

  • publicschoolteacher Feb 6, 2009

    I purchased a maltese puppy from Ms. Thornton's son and daughter-in-law at "Kay's Pups" on Mt. Olive Hwy and feel that this place also needs to be looked into. I was not allowed to see the parents of my puppy, or walk out to where it was. The Thorntons insisited I stay in the house and he would bring her in to me. There was a single wide trailer on the property that I could hear dogs barking from. This was a couple of years ago and I have always felt that I should have contacted someone to see if this was indeed a puppy mill. Hopefully someone is investigating this location as well, or will in the very near future.