Victory at Last for Hundreds of Dogs In Landmark LawsuitNovember 30th, 2007
Final Judgment in Lee County Court Means Dogs Rescued from Sanford Hoarders Will Be in Forever Homes for Christmas
Sanford, N.C. – In the largest civil action challenging animal cruelty in American history, the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) has received the Lee County Court’s final order of judgment granting a permanent injunction in the Sanford animal hoarding case of Animal Legal Defense Fund v. Woodley. With this final order, ALDF now has permanent legal custody of the more than 300 dogs rescued from convicted animal hoarders Barbara and Robert Woodley. Until this final step was achieved, the dogs, placed in temporary foster homes, remained in legal limbo and could not be adopted into lifetime homes.
This final judgment puts an end to any further appeals in the case and comes almost three years after the trial that resulted in the removal of the abused and neglected dogs from the Woodleys’ Sanford residence. The dogs – including Boston Terriers, Boxers and other breeds – were suffering from a multitude of painful and preventable diseases at the time of their rescue. Many were blind, or nearly so, from chronic neglect and exposure to toxic levels of ammonia due to years of unremoved waste. Others had painful eye ailments. A majority of the dogs had dental problems which required the extraction of some or all of their teeth, and many had bone decay and loss caused by the filthy conditions. A significant number of the dogs had broken bones that had never been treated but had healed over time, while the dogs suffered through the process. The dogs had never received veterinary care while being forced to live amid (and often covered in) their own feces and urine.
The North Carolina law utilized by ALDF in this historic case allows private litigants to take the burden off of municipalities and assist by civilly enforcing cases of animal cruelty. While all states have criminal statutes governing animal cruelty, prosecutors and animal control agencies in most jurisdictions can be overwhelmed by the demands of prosecuting such a case. The court ruled that North Carolina's Civil Remedy for Protection of Animals statute (Chapter 19A) allows organizations like the Animal Legal Defense Fund to utilize the law on behalf of abused animals. In the Woodley case, the couple was also convicted of 10 counts of animal cruelty in a parallel criminal trial.
"This was an appalling case of animal cruelty. The levels of ammonia from the urine-soaked home were so high it burned the eyes and noses of our team as they carried the dogs off that property," said Animal Legal Defense Fund Executive Director Stephen Wells. "If they really care about animal welfare, more states should look at enacting similar civil provisions for animal cruelty cases so organizations like the Animal Legal Defense Fund can help rescue animals from horrible circumstances like this," Wells said.
Hoarding is one of the most egregious forms of animal cruelty, affecting tens of thousands of animals--mostly cats and dogs--in communities nationwide. Hoarders keep abnormally large numbers of animals for whom they do not provide even the most basic care. Animal victims of hoarders typically suffer horribly as a result, and, unlike most other forms of companion animal cruelty, their misery can go on for years. Last month, ALDF filed a lawsuit against Janie Conyers, a Raleigh resident and breeder of AKC champions, using the same provision in a case in which the county seized more than one hundred dogs, mostly toy poodles.
ALDF was founded in 1979 with the unique mission of protecting the lives and advancing interests of animals through the legal system. For more information, please visit www.aldf.org.