ALDF v. Woodley

Posted on March 31, 2005

June 2009:
Check out the ALDF v. Woodley feature in the June 2009 issue of O, The Oprah Magazine.

November 30, 2007: The Animal Legal Defense Fund 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.

March 31, 2005

"I was stunned. There were 14 dogs in the main house and
the floors were covered with piles of old, and fresh, dog feces. Puddles of
urine were scattered about the floor. Dogs were eating feces inside the home.
There was so much urine and feces that it was difficult to walk in the house
without stepping in excrement."

This testimony came directly from a veterinarian who
visited the property of Barbara and Robert Woodley in Sanford, North Carolina.
When the Animal Legal Defense Fund heard about the situation, it launched an
investigation, then filed suit against the Woodleys.

On March 31, 2005, a North
Carolina district court granted ALDF a landmark
ruling. Finding ALDF had presented extensive and compelling evidence of cruelty
to hundreds of dogs, the court gave ALDF custody of every animal on the
property. (In a related criminal lawsuit, the Woodleys were found guilty of
multiple counts of animal cruelty in a prosecution based on evidence collected
by ALDF, and all the animals involved in the criminal case were also forfeited
to ALDF’s custody.)

Veterinarians at trial testified that hundreds of dogs had
oral and mouth ailments; many of the dogs were missing some or all of their
teeth, and many blind or nearly blind. Before ALDF had been able to intervene
to put a stop to the cruelty, dozens of dogs had to be euthanized because of
their intractable conditions.

Nightmarish Conditions

The horrors these veterinarians discovered were typical of
what is found among animal hoarders.  One dog, a red miniature pinscher, was found
in a cage roughly 24 inches by 18 inches, lying in a puddle of her own urine
and feces, in a room with six other dogs. She had obviously been in that exact
spot for a prolonged period. The overpowering stench of urine in the room
caused the eyes of the attending veterinarians and technician to burn.
Emaciated and unable to rise more than part way before collapsing, this ravaged
dog was taken from the property for medical treatment and euthanized two days

A red-black male Dachshund was found that day as well, the bottom half of
his broken jaw literally hanging down. The jaw had apparently been fractured
for quite some time. He was missing most of his teeth, and subsequent examination
showed the fracture was related to untreated, severe dental disease.

An Historic Rescue

Days after the landmark ruling, ALDF and local animal
control officers removed the final 200 dogs from the Woodleys’ property. ALDF
had already rescued approximately 100 dogs from the property the previous
January, subject to a court order. In the wake of these momentous events, ALDF began
the daunting task of coordinating the care and housing of approximately 320
dogs, many of whom were sick and diseased, and most of whom were unaccustomed
to human contact.

An astounding force of local volunteers and veterinarians donated
countless hours caring for these dogs, treating both their medical needs and
their social and daily requirements.  For
months, these dogs were cared for at an ad
hoc shelter in Sanford, the Halls of Hope, learning to trust and play for
the first time while waiting for foster families to open their homes to them.

Today, all of the dogs are adopted and living with loving families in the Sanford area and around the country. With the court’s final decision on October 11, 2007, the more than 300 dogs rescued were allowed to be permanently adopted by their foster families. 

A Model for Fighting Cruelty

In most states, a prosecutor
must be the one to bring charges against animal hoarders for committing acts of
cruelty to animals. But a unique North
Carolina provision, the 19A Statute,
which ALDF used in this unprecedented lawsuit against the Woodleys, allows any
private citizen or organization to bring civil charges against abusers for
violating animal cruelty laws. ALDF has drafted a Model Law for a Private
Right of Action
, based on North
Carolina’s unique provision that, if passed in other states, would greatly
reduce the burden on local prosecutors and allow concerned citizens and animal
protection groups to stop the tragedy of hoarding in their own communities
throughout the country.

"This lawsuit enabled us to rescue hundreds of animals
who were in a persistent state of suffering," said ALDF Founder and General Counsel Joyce Tischler. "Now the job is to enact statutes in other states that are
similar to the one we used in North
Carolina. No civilized person would tolerate the
kinds of conditions these animals were living in. Concerned members of
the public need a civil right of action to initiate a case against a
hoarder. "

Dogs Score Final Victory in ALDF v. Woodley

For hundreds of dogs living with loving foster families, holding out for they day they could be adopted and become official members of their families–the wait is over! Two and a half years after filing the case, the final legal victory has arrived! After numerous appeals by the Woodleys, on October 11, 2007, the North Carolina Supreme Court upheld ALDF’s victory, and the more than 300 dogs rescued from nightmarish, concentration camp conditions were allowed to be permanently adopted by their foster families.

More Information, More
Ways You Can Help…

ALDF’s Animal Hoarding Fact Sheet

Learn how each of us can play an important role in stopping animal hoarding. 

Make a Donation
Help ALDF continue its fight for the thousands of hoarding victims suffering right now.

National Public Radio Story
Listen to the National Public Radio story that aired May 24, 2005.

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