02/10/09 — Settlement reached in 'puppy mill' case

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Settlement reached in 'puppy mill' case

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on February 10, 2009 2:12 PM


A scheduled civil hearing against the owner of an alleged "puppy mill" -- where dogs are bred in "horrible" conditions -- was canceled after a settlement was reached out of court, authorities said.

On Friday morning, about 300 small-breed dogs were seized from Thornton Kennel, near the Wayne-Sampson County line on Westbrook Church Road. The facility is owned by Virginia Thornton.

A civil injunction hearing against Ms. Thornton was scheduled for 2 p.m. today to determine if the county would take ownership of the animals.

The hearing had not begun as of 2:10 p.m., and people familiar with the case said that Ms. Thornton was not expected to enter the courtroom.

Some of the dogs had feces in their fur, and all carried the stench of ammonia from the sheds at the alleged "puppy mill," where some dogs are kept in cages for years only for the purpose of breeding, County Animal Control Director Justin Scally said.

County spokesperson Barbara Arntsen said she did not know the details of the settlement between the county and Ms. Thornton.

"We don't know anything," Ms. Arntsen said. "We're waiting for the courtroom to open like everybody else."

Longtime Goldsboro resident George Wolfe showed up with volunteers from the site to plead with state lawmakers for a law against puppy mills.

"We're asking Raleigh to step up and take action today," Wolfe said. "We're appalled at the condition these animals are being raised in.

"No animal deserves to go back to that kind of life," Wolfe said.