Local News

More charges expected after dog carcasses exhumed at raided Hoke shelter

Posted January 28, 2016 2:21 p.m. EST
Updated January 28, 2016 7:32 p.m. EST

— A day after Hoke County deputies and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals raided an animal shelter near Raeford, authorities on Thursday dug up the remains of dead animals that had been buried on the property.

Representatives of the ASPCA also continued to remove some of the more than 600 neglected animals from The Haven – Friends For Life shelter, taking them to a warehouse near Raleigh where they could be checked by veterinarians, be fed and be cared for.

The ASPCA said "dozens of deceased animals" were found buried throughout the 122-acre property.

"Part of the process here has been collecting evidence, and in that process we have discovered a number of deceased animals in multiple locations throughout the property that had been discarded," said Tim Rickey, a field inspector for the ASPCA. "Our teams are going through and uncovering and documenting that."

Shelter owners Linden and Stephen Spear were released on bond after appearing in court on charges of neglect and felony possession of a controlled substance – that charge is related to a type of animal medication – but authorities said they expect dozens more charges to be filed against the couple as the investigation unfolds.

ASPCA officials called the raid at The Haven the largest companion-animal raid they've conducted nationwide in the last 20 years.

Officials said they had received complaints about sick animals being adopted from the shelter. Animals were kept in dirty cages, kennels, outdoor pens and paddocks, they said, and many had no protection from the elements.

The Haven was operating without a license for about a decade, according to the ASPCA, and past inspections by the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services deemed the facility “inadequate."

Because the Spears' property is still considered a crime scene, the couple was not allowed to return to the site Thursday. So, they were staying at the Southern Pines home of Nancy Moore, a long-time donor to The Haven who said authorities are mischaracterizing the Spears.

"When you go into a no-kill shelter and people drop animals off at your gate, you're going to have animals that have been hit by cars. There is no animal that is not treated by a veterinarian. These animals are given shots when they walk in the door," Moore said.