Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues to Rescue 100+ Dogs From Real-Life House of Horrors in RaleighOctober 31st, 2007
Dozens of Severely Neglected Toy Poodles and Other Animals Already Seized from AKC Champion Breeder in Animal Hoarding Case
Raleigh, N.C.– The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), Wake County, and a county animal cruelty investigator are filing a complaint in Wake County District Court today against Janie Conyers, 77, of Raleigh, for keeping more than 100 dogs and several birds in filthy conditions and depriving them of all veterinary care. ALDF is seeking permanent custody of the severely neglected animals as well as the county’s cost of caring for the animals, whose immediate veterinary expenses alone will likely top $70,000. The lawsuit is being filed under the state’s Civil Remedy for Protection for Animals statute (Chapter 19A), a law unique to North Carolina that allows a private citizen or organization to file suit to stop animal cruelty.
The animals were seized from the home of the AKC champion breeder on October 19, when animal control officers, a county cruelty investigator, and a uniformed police officer responded to a report of severe cruelty and neglect in what they suspected might be a hoarding situation. Inside the home they found 106 dogs, primarily toy poodles and other small breeds, and 9 birds living in horrific conditions. The sworn testimony of all involved is that the dogs were covered in excrement, many of the dogs dripping wet with urine. Broken jaws, severe and extremely painful dental disease, corneal ulcers, cataracts, and urine/fecal scalding were found in a large number of the animals. The measured ammonia level in the house was ten times the USDA’s maximum recommended ammonia level for large swine operations.
Despite the clichéd image of animal hoarders being simply eccentric old ladies, hoarding--defined as keeping far more animals than one can care for, and denying the suffering of the animals--is an extreme form of animal cruelty. In his sworn testimony, the director of the Wake County Animal Control noted that upon entering Conyers’ home, he was hit with the stench of ammonia and feces and immediately saw small dogs everywhere, "too many to count." He was stunned to see that "[o]ne dog in particular was obviously blind and could barely stand up. His tongue was hanging out of his mouth, and I later learned that his jaw had almost disintegrated. He was caged by himself in the basement, and sat in his cage, shaking. He had some substance stuck to the underside of his fur; it was evident that he could not stand up to use the bathroom and had consequently soiled himself repeatedly."
In 2005, ALDF used Chapter 19A to obtain a permanent injunction against Sanford, N.C. animal hoarders Barbara and Robert Woodley, who were also found guilty in Lee County District Court of multiple counts of animal cruelty. Custody of the Woodleys’ 300-plus dogs was awarded to ALDF, and they were rehabilitated in foster homes for two and a half years while the Woodleys appealed the decisions. Earlier this month, on October 11, the North Carolina Supreme Court denied the Woodleys’ final attempt to appeal the case, giving clear affirmation of the right of animal protection organizations to utilize this statute to rescue animal victims in cases of extreme abuse.
"The suffering these dogs endured for years at the home of a ‘champion’ breeder shines a terrifying spotlight on the national epidemic of animal hoarding," says ALDF Executive Director Stephen Wells. "As it did in ALDF v Woodley, we look to the North Carolina judicial system to see that justice is served for these animals, and to ensure that they are never returned to Ms. Conyers’ real-life house of horrors."