Victory at Last for Hundreds of Dogs In Landmark Lawsuit

Posted on November 30, 2007

Final Judgment in Lee County Court Means Dogs Rescued from Sanford Hoarders Will Be in Forever Homes for Christmas

Dogs rescued from the WoodleysSanford, 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.