RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A dog breeding operation that was home to more than 600 breeding females is now the site of a huge rescue operation, with the owner agreeing to relinquish nearly 1,000 dogs for treatment and possible adoption.
Hundreds of puppies, mostly small, purebred varieties such as pugs, corgis and King Charles spaniels were taken to an emergency operations center staffed by volunteer veterinarians, Carroll County Administrator Gary Larrowe said Thursday.
He estimated that as many as 120 people are involved at any given time, and said the pet store chain PetSmart sent a tractor-trailer load of supplies.
"I'm not sure what we would have done with 1,000 dogs otherwise," he said.
The dog breeding operation was uncovered by the Humane Society of the United States during a five-month investigation into so-called "puppy mills" in Virginia. Local animal rights groups made sure the county was aware of the report, and the county then asked for state help.
Many of the dogs were discovered in cages made of wire fencing and wood framing, said the Humane Society's John Snyder. The animals largely appeared to be in good shape, Larrowe said, although many were denied the socialization that produces good pets.
Junior Horton, the owner of the breeding operation, has been breeding dogs for more than 20 years, he told authorities, and had a license to have as many as 500 dogs.
Earlier this week, Horton called the effort to remove dogs from his farm "dognapping." He said, "They just come in on me out of the blue."
"I've got the best kennel in southwest Virginia," he said.
In negotiations with county officials, Horton will keep 200 dogs and will secure the proper licensing and comply with federal laws for dog breeders, Larrowe said.
He could eventually face charges that include animal cruelty, but he has cooperated as authorities work to remove the dogs from his farm, treat them and send them on to shelters.
Animal shelters up and down the East Coast are preparing for arrivals.
The dogs, once cleared for release, will be sent to shelters from as far away as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to upstate New York, Snyder said.
On the Net:
Carroll County Puppy Mill: gov.carrollcountyva.org/animalcontrol/
Virginia Partnership for Animal Welfare and Support: www.vapaws.org
Humane Society of the United States: www.hsus.org