Local News

Seized dogs to be available for adoption

Posted February 10, 2009
Updated March 9, 2009

— The woman accused of running what authorities call a puppy mill reached an agreement Tuesday to give the nearly 300 dogs seized from her breeding facility to the Wayne County Animal Control office, officials said.

After physical examinations on Wednesday, the 283 dogs – seized from Thornton Kennels in southern Wayne County last Thursday – will go to rescue groups and humane society groups across the region for rehabilitation and adoption, Humane Society of the United States spokeswoman Jordan Crump said.

Over the next few days, the animals will begin social and physical rehabilitation.

Dogs to be available for adoption Seized dogs will be up for adoption

The county is transferring ownership of the dogs to the Humane Society of the United States, county spokeswoman Barbara Arntsen said in a release.

A list of shelters where the animals will be kept and information about adoption will be posted on the Humane Society of the United States Web site later this week. People can also contact Wayne County Animal Control at 919-731-1439 for more information. The dogs are expected to be shipped to Florida and Virginia shelters.

“The Humane Society of the United States strongly urges local law enforcement to pursue criminal charges against the mill owner and bar her from breeding dogs in the future,” the society’s senior director of emergency services, Scotlund Haisley, said in a statement.

Virginia Thornton's attorney, Billy Strickland, and Wayne County's attorney, Borden Parker, reached the agreement before a hearing that had been scheduled Tuesday to decide custody of the animals.

In the agreement, Thornton surrendered all rights to and interests in the dogs, Arntsen said.

Authorities said they are also considering pressing criminal charges against Thornton.

The dogs – mostly shih-tzus, chihuahuas and Lhasa apsos – have been treated for infections, Crump said. Three young puppies died the day of the raid. The rest are responding well to treatment, she said.

“They've been neglected,” Humane Society spokeswoman Kathleen Summers said. “They were not bred to live their lives in small cages. It's very cruel."

The Humane Society assisted in the seizure. One of the workers wore a camera to document the raid first-hand.

Volunteers with the United Animal Nations’ Emergency Animal Rescue Service have been overseeing the temporary shelter of the rescued animals. Representatives of the Sacramento, Calif.-based group flew in to attend Tuesday’s scheduled hearing.

“I am amazed at the unprecedented outpouring of compassion and dedication that we have seen in this rescue mission,” said Justin Scally, director of the county Department of Animal Control. “It would have been impossible for us to save these animals without the support of all of the organizations and volunteers involved.”

Thornton Kennels' business number has been disconnected, and a message left for Thornton on another phone wasn't returned.

A "puppy mill" is a dog-breeding operation that mass-produces puppies in factory-style settings for sale at pet stores and over the Internet.

Local animal advocates went to the courthouse in anticipation of the hearing. They held signs requesting lawmakers ban puppy mills and get tough on breeders who neglect animals.

"Just because they're four-legged and they got fur on them, doesn't mean you can kick them around,” Wayne County resident George Wolfe said.


This story is closed for comments.

Oldest First
View all
  • Weetie Feb 11, 2009

    DrDataclerk: When you are old or sick do you want to be put to sleep?

  • Weetie Feb 11, 2009

    Thanks jcranford. Doing it right now!

  • jcranford Feb 11, 2009

    To all of you who love animals, copy and paste this address into your web browser: http://www.ncga.state.nc.us/GIS/RandR07/Representation.html
    This will take you to the NC Legislature - find your county and your senators and reps will be listed. TELL THEM YOU WANT A LAW THAT WILL PROHIBIT THE RUNNING OF PUPPY MILLS IN NORTH CAROLINA!! I live in Guilford County and yesterday, I emailed Senators Don Davis and David Rowzer of Wayne County (where this puppy mill was operating) and copied all my representatives from Guilford County requesting that they all work together to create a law to prohibit these terrible puppy mills.

  • icdumbpeople Feb 11, 2009

    Some of the best animals are the weak sick ones that have been abused and you take them in. No matter if it is a dog or horse. They would be by your side thick and thin!

  • SalemWWX Feb 11, 2009

    I have no problem with these people being charged, or with the authorities seizing the animals. But what I am concerned with is having one without the other? If there is sufficient evidence against her that authorities are siezing her property, why are there no charges? And if there are to be no charges, wouldn't the law demand that her property be returned? Frankly I hope there are charges and the dogs end up in good homes, but the other part of this seems a little out of whack....

  • sayitoutloud Feb 11, 2009

    From what I read on Craigslist; its believed that her daughter or daughter-in-law is also in the "puppy breeding" business and her place looks like hers. I think the SPCA needs to get over there quick.

  • kimmyrn6 Feb 11, 2009

    One more thing, "personal tragedies" are no excuse for animal neglect! I have had my share of personal tragedies recently and never have I thought it was OK to neglect and abuse my animals because I had a bad day. In fact, my animals bring me up after those bad days. Animals love pretty much unconditionally, people, not so much...

  • kimmyrn6 Feb 11, 2009

    Bottom line, fundraising money or not, these dogs have the chance for a new life! Wayne County animal control and all affiliated should be praised for their perseverance. And whoever said that the dogs look sickly and should be put down, SHAME ON YOU!! Let me find you looking sickly and instead of TLC and chicken noodle soup, we'll put you down!!

  • whatever02 Feb 11, 2009

    "These dogs look sickly and should be put to death so they will no longer suffer. Dr. Dataclerk"

    I found a blind lab mix who was "sickly". Someone had put hom out in the middle of a field in late June with no water and no food. He was covered in fleas and ticks (I pulled them off of him for an hour). He was so weak from malnutrition that he couldn't stand up - his knees would buckle like a baby horse. That was almost 9 years ago and he is now and has been for 9 years fat and hapopy. That was my "sickly" experience and it's been a great one - There will never be another George. He is still blind and has been on medication for seizures for a couple of years now but he has 2 furry brothers he plays with, he plays fetch, he is amazing (as long as you don't move the furniture :).

  • amyrn Feb 11, 2009

    THe video was pitiful. It is somewhat difficult to housebreak a dog that has been kept in a cage or in a dog shelter/pound. Dogs are born programmed with the desire NOT to defecate/urinate in the area in which they eat or where they sleep. These dogs know only that! I rescued two dogs from the Wayne County Shelter and both of these were almost impossible to housetrain. They now live in a fenced in yard with dog houses and do fine outside (they are a beagle and a jack/beagle mix. However, I have a mini schnauzer and a chocolate lab that came from private homes and both were super easy to housebreak.
    So, it will take a while to kept these dogs accustomed to not eating and soiling in the same area. Whereas with most dogs, crate training is pretty easy, it won't be as easy with these. By the way, I am not a big fan of the Humane Society either. I think they are more into publicity and moneymaking than rescue and rehab.