10/13/10 — Sixty dogs part of cruelty charges

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Sixty dogs part of cruelty charges

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on October 13, 2010 1:46 PM

About 60 dogs from the Wayne County Animal Adoption and Education Center were among more than 100 animals seized Monday from a Rockingham County property that is now the center of an animal cruelty investigation.

Officials removed 93 dogs, six dead dogs, two ferrets, five chinchillas, five guinea pigs, six goats and a horse from the home of Thomas Adkins, 37, and Amber Adkins, 19, of Reidsville and charged the couple with misdemeanor animal cruelty. They were released on $5,000 bonds.

Deputies reportedly witnessed dogs attacking a horse and goat, with other dogs feeding off the carcasses of the six dead dogs lying around the property. The smell on the property was so strong that it was hard for investigators to walk across the yard, Rockingham County Sheriff's Deputy Dean Venable said.

"The conditions on the property were not humane for animals. (It) would be the opinion of some that it was less than desirable for humans, but it was certainly not humane," he said.

Some of the dogs were running loose, while others were kept in cages and small lots, and the animals might or might not have had adequate food and water, Venable said.

Veterinarians at the Reidsville Animal Hospital, who are caring for the animals, euthanized 19 of the dogs due to their physical condition.

"Some of them appear to be very healthy, and some of them I guess you could say could go either way," Venable said.

It is unknown at this point whether any of the Wayne County dogs were among those euthanized.

The Adkinses were holding the Wayne County dogs temporarily until they could be transported to Pancake Hollow Farm and Rescue Inc. in Highland, N.Y., rescue operations manager Andrew McKee said.

The Adkinses are volunteers who worked with the rescue to adopt dogs and send them on to the New York facility, he said.

"We think it just got out of hand. We think it was just overwhelming or something. I don't think they're the type of people who would want to hurt animals," McKee said.

The rescuers are struggling to understand how the situation occurred. The rescue operators were not aware of the conditions the dogs were living in, or they "would have put the brakes on," McKee said.

"This is horrifying. We are in shock. We were having a difficult time functioning yesterday, and today we're just praying for these animals," he said.

The Wayne County dogs were on the property for about 10 days, ever since they were taken from the Wayne County animal shelter on Sept. 30 -- a day before they were due to be euthanized, McKee said.

"They were transferred, transported to Reidsville and were going to be held there for a short period of time," he said.

The rescue often pulls dogs from shelters with a high euthanization rate and transports them to the northeastern part of the country, where they have a better chance of being adopted, McKee said. The rescue was taking dogs from Wayne County because "that was where we decided we could do the most good."

The Wayne County Animal Adoption and Education Center knew of the plan to transport the dogs to the New York facility, County Manager Lee Smith said in a statement released by his office. The Rockingham County Sheriff contacted Smith Monday night to inform him of the cruelty investigation.

"We had researched the facility in New York and found that they were a respectable and legitimate place to send our animals," Smith said.

Pancake Hollow Farm and Rescue contracted transportation services with the individuals in Rockingham County, and the county was instructed to transfer the animals to this individual so they could be brought up to New York.

"We just recently transferred the animals and this was the first time we had given animals to that individual," Smith said.

Pancake Hollow Farm and Rescue is still prepared to take the dogs to the facility in New York, but McKee said he is waiting for further information from the United States Department of Agriculture and the Rockingham County Sheriff's Department.

"We don't want to do anything at this point. We don't want to attack anybody until everything comes out," McKee said. "... We care about these dogs. We want everybody out there to pray for these dogs that they can be safe."

Smith said he spoke with the lead investigator in Rockingham County and is in contact with the Humane Society of the United States.

"We have offered to go get our animals and bring them back here. We let them have the animals because we have had a large influx of animals and thought they would have a better chance of adoption with this particular rescue agency. We are waiting to hear back from Rockingham County," he said.

Rockingham County officials were tipped off about the conditions at the property by the state Department of Agriculture's veterinary division, which reportedly learned about the situation through an unidentified source. Rockingham County Animal Control responded and secured the property. It took the Sheriff's Office about 11 hours to remove the animals, Venable said.