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CALDWELL COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Nearly 300 dogs are being housed in a temporary shelter at the Caldwell County Fairgrounds after they were removed Thursday from what authorities described as a puppy mill.
Animal control officers and volunteers were busy Thursday seizing the dogs from a property in Caldwell County, and they say animal cruelty charges will be filed against the owner within a week.
The Caldwell County Health Department issued a statement Thursday morning indicating a search and seizure warrant had been obtained for 276 dogs at Mason Creek Kennels at 4869 Free Mason Road in Hudson located about 55 miles northwest of Charlotte.
William "Bill" Thomas Allen owns the kennels where various dogs were found including Bichon Frise, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, Japanese Chins, Pomeranians, Shih Tzu, Shih Poo, Shorkie Tzu and Yorkie breeds.
Officials said many of the dogs had matted hair, and those with puppies were housed in buildings which smelled of urine and feces.
Officials were unable to find a single leash on the property. They said the dogs had been kept in cages all their lives and never taken for walks. Many of the dogs are in need of veterinary care.
A month ago, Caldwell County Animal Control contacted Kimberly Alboum, North Carolina State Director of the Humane Society, regarding conditions at the kennels after they conducted a rabies check at the property.
The animal control officers were concerned because the dogs were in "very, crowded, inhumane conditions" according to a statement released Thursday afternoon.
"Mason Creek Kennels has been under investigation for quite a while, but it's taken a little while to get enough evidence for the warrant," said Caldwell County Animal Control Director Greg Greene.
Officials say Allen surrendered 37 animals to animal control last week.
"The animals were in such extremely poor condition, and we had such limited funds to care for them, that we had to euthanize those animals," said Greene.
During the seizure on Thursday, the health department said "several dead animals were found as well as dozens of animals packed in crates with feces and garbage throughout the home and surrounding buildings."
The United States Humane Society, Caldwell County Sheriff's Office, Burke County Animal Control, Catawba County Animal Control, and Union County Animal Control assisted Caldwell County officials with the seizure.
The Humane Society of the United States has teams that travel all over the country to assist with situations like this, and representatives of the organization from as far as Maryland came to help in Caldwell County.
The dogs will be temporarily housed at a shelter at the Caldwell County Fairgrounds on Highway 321 in Lenoir.
The health department says the crates, food and supplies have been provided by a grant from Maddie's Fund which is part of Pet Smart Charities. Officials estimate the cost of caring for these animals could exceed $100,000 but will be paid for through this grant.
At the shelter, the dogs will undergo a thorough health check by Outback Mobile Veterinary Services of Morganton, and Dr. Judy Vogt of the Human Society of Charlotte.
The dogs will be picked up by various rescue shelters this weekend for rehabilitation and medical care. They will remain in these shelters until they have completed medical care and are released by Caldwell County.
On Friday, animal control officials said the dogs were not available for immediate adoption at this time.
Alboum said anyone upset with the news about this seizure should call their local representatives in Raleigh.
"What we really need from the public is for them to call their local legislatures and support our goal of getting minimum standard requirements for commercial breeders," Alboum said.