Animal Legal Defense Fund Sues to Rescue 100+ Dogs From Real-Life House of Horrors in Raleigh

Posted on October 31, 2007

Dozens of Severely Neglected Toy Poodles and Other Animals Already Seized from AKC Champion Breeder in Animal Hoarding Case

Dogs in cages at Conyers' houseRaleigh, 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.

A dog seized from Conyers propertyThe
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 thatA dog siezed from Conyers property
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."

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