08/12/09 — UPDATED: 'Puppy mill' trial begins

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UPDATED: 'Puppy mill' trial begins

By Nick Hiltunen
Published in News on August 12, 2009 3:08 PM

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Wayne County resident George Wolfe speaks to reporters as Louise Garris holds a sign in the background that reads "No Puppie Mills in Wayne County" at the Wayne County Courthouse on Tuesday. Thornton Kennels owner Virginia Thornton agreed in an out-of-civil-court settlement to surrender the custody of all 283 dogs to Wayne County Animal Control.

The trial of a woman charged with animal cruelty for an alleged 'puppy mill' operation began today.

Virginia Thornton, owner of Thornton Kennel near the Wayne-Sampson county line, faces 12 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty for conditions at the breeding facility for small dogs. Former Wayne County Animal Control Director Justin Wayne County Animal Control director called conditions there "horrible," and made specific allegations of matted fur and swollen eyes, too much urine and feces in the environment, and the stink of ammonia.

Scally spent much of the Wednesday testifying in Mrs. Thornton's trial.

Lisa Dixon, a veterinarian involved in the trial, testified about "emaciated" animals, and said there were just 20 animals of a total 283 that were of normal weight.

Scally said he estimated about 90 percent of the dogs had to be treated.

"When they were examined, they had eye diseases, such as ulcers," Dr. Dixon testified.

Other dogs exhibited "circling" behavior, which Dr. Dixon said she observed in at least 25 dogs after they were taken to the Wayne County Fairgrounds. Dogs "circle" their cages to get exercise when they rarely, or never, leave their cages, Dr. Dixon testified.

Dr. Dixon also showed video that included one dog with feces encrusted around its face.

For the most complete detail, please pick up a copy of Thursday's News-Argus.