By Mary Wisniewski/Reuters
(Reuters) – Animal welfare workers on Saturday were evaluating the health of almost 700 dogs, cats, horses and other animals that were taken this week from what were described as “filthy” conditions and neglect at a rural North Carolina shelter.
Stephen Spear, 67, and Linden Spear, 59, managers of The Haven-Friends for Life, a private no-kill shelter in Raeford, North Carolina, were arrested on Wednesday and face charges of animal cruelty and possession of a controlled substance, according to the Hoke County Sheriff’s Office. Raeford is about 110 miles east of Charlotte.
Workers with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals recovered almost 350 dogs, more than 280 cats, 47 horses and some farm animals from the 122-acre shelter over three days, said group spokeswoman Kelly Krause.
It was the 150-year-old organization’s largest ever U.S. case operation for suspected cruelty to companion animals, although larger rescues have been conducted for cock fighting operations, Krause said.
“The main issue here was neglect,” said Krause. She said the animals were in “really filthy” conditions, and some animals had open wounds, were emaciated and had upper respiratory disease. One dog has a broken leg.
“It’s not an uncommon situation with no-kill shelters,” said Krause, referring to shelters which promise not to euthanize animals who are not adopted.
The ASPCA was sheltering the animals in an 80,000-square foot (7,432 square m) warehouse in the central part of North Carolina, where about 90 people were taking care of them and 10 veterinarians have started medical examinations, Krause said.
Since the animals are considered evidence in a criminal case, the non-profit plans to shelter them until a court determines their custody.
The state agriculture department’s animal welfare section conducted at least 10 inspections of the unlicensed shelter since January 2009, according to online records.
Last Tuesday, the department denied the shelter’s request for registration, citing numerous problems including lack of fresh water and proper shelter.
The Spears, who have been released on bond according to local media, could not be reached for comment.
(Reporting by Mary Wisniewski; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli)