Local News

Hundreds of dogs seized from Wayne Co. puppy mill

Posted February 6, 2009 11:55 a.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— 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.

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.