Dogs Seized After Complaints
The rescue of 18 dogs at a Lucas Road residence this week involved the cooperative efforts of several county agencies and nonprofit animal charities.
In the meantime, the rescued dogs are being cared for by Animal Advocates of Moore County, the Humane Society and the Moore County Animal Shelter.
Al Carter, director of Moore County Animal Control, said the family voluntarily surrendered the animals. He called the situation more a sociological matter and that criminal charges are not being actively pursued.
However, the county attorney’s office has researched procedures for declaring the property a “public nuisance” as defined by state law.
Carter said the property in question has been the source of numerous complaints since 2007, and the family has been cooperative, but complaints soon return.
The property is west of Seven Lakes West, where residents had complained about the loud, persistent barking of dogs. The property is not inside Seven Lakes.
“They (the family) have always shown a good faith effort to comply with our orders to bring the dogs under control and to provide better care,” Carter said.
Carter said the dogs were not abused but were not well cared for. He said the family simply does not have the financial or physical means to provide suitable day-to-day care as well as veterinary care.
Maureen Burke-Horansky, founder of Animal Advocates of Moore County, described the owner as “a hoarder” who has been hospitalized, leaving her brother responsible for feeding and watering the large number of dogs.
Two of the animals accepted by her group were immediately taken to a veterinarian because they needed urgent medical attention. Burke said both suffered body sores from lying in their own feces. One was a pit bull, the other a husky.
The number of dogs on the property at any one time varies from 15 to 30, depending on the size and condition of litters, a situation that changes from day to day. Most of the dogs have not been spayed or neutered.
“We are pleased that he surrendered the majority of his dogs and are hopeful that he will surrender several others shortly,” Carter said. “He was caring for them the best he could.”
In a report issued this week, County Manager Cary McSwain said that the Planning Department, Animal Control and Environmental Health officials have been working on the Lucas Road situation since early 2008. Their efforts have focused on such things as housing assistance and violations of the zoning and animal control ordinances.
McSwain said that initial efforts to help the family through Community Development Block Grant housing rehabilitation assistance proved to be cost prohibitive because of the dilapidated condition of the existing dwelling.
“Some progress has been made by the family to comply with the zoning ordinance violations,” McSwain said. “Being aware of the dire financial state of the family, the county has been flexible in working with the family to comply.”
The planning staff partnered with the Department of Social Services to research other options, but no housing assistance was available, according to McSwain.
The family has been allowed to live in a recreational vehicle parked on the property to prevent them from becoming homeless. The three adults living there have inherited the property, a factor that complicates some assistance and enforcement efforts, McSwain added.
Since receiving the first complaints about barking, Animal Control has investigated several aspects of the situation but determined that the dogs are not being abused or neglected — although their care is minuscule, apparently because the family has limited means. Carter said the family provided ample water and food and has tried to work on shelter issues, but the quality of the food, for example, has been poor.
“The family was making a good faith effort to comply, but a citation was issued for nuisance in February of 2009,” McSwain said. The complaint that time was barking.
Animal Control asked the family to surrender the dogs Feb. 12. The family agreed to surrender the animals on Monday but were called out of town because a sister was hospitalized. On Tuesday, they surrendered 18 dogs.
Another 10 dogs remain on the property, but the family is expected to surrender them at a later date.
The county attorney and the deputy county attorney visited the property to assess the violations of the zoning and animal control ordinances and to determine if other activities there could be categorized as a “public nuisance,” McSwain said.
McSwain said the planning staff has advised the county attorney that work is under way on another application to determine if the family is eligible for any type of funding.
Contact Florence Gilkeson at (910) 693-2479 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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