Local News

Durham woman charged after dozens of dogs seized from home

Posted August 10, 2015 2:40 p.m. EDT
Updated August 10, 2015 5:51 p.m. EDT

— A Durham woman faces criminal charges after dozens of huskies and malamutes were seized from a home three weeks ago.

Sandra Dee Lehto, 53, of 614 Sybil Drive, was charged last week with 28 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals. She has been released on an unsecured bond.

A deputy with the Animal Services Division of the Durham County Sheriff's Office responding to a July 21 complaint about two dogs running loose on Sybil Drive noticed a strong smell of urine and feces coming from 614 Sybil Drive, heard barking inside the house and saw dogs with matted fur in pens in the backyard, authorities said.

The deputy obtained a search warrant and found 31 dogs on the property, authorities said. Lehto surrendered custody of the animals, and they were taken to the Durham County Animal Protection Society for veterinary exams.

"When they first arrived, it was obvious that they were coming from a very bad situation," Shafonda Davis, executive director of the animal shelter, said Monday. "They were covered in urine and feces, and they were very, very thin."

Three of the dogs have since died, and half of the survivors had heart worm disease and intestinal parasites.

Davis said county officials are working with husky and malamute rescue groups to help care for the dogs.

"Many of them are special-needs (dogs), and they are going to need a lot of care and rehabilitation," she said.

After they receive the needed care, the dogs will be put up for adoption.