Deborah Hall has been charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty, according to Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes.
This comes after authorities seized more than 200 animals from her home on Powell Road in Dover Tuesday morning.
Authorities got the tip about a couple neglecting animals when a woman requested a welfare check on her dog she recently gave to Hall.
That is when authorities reportedly discovered hundreds of animals with inadequate bedding and water. The animals also reportedly lacked shots and vaccinations.
While the Hall and her husband told 9 On Your Side they had no comment on the investigation, the Craven County Sheriff’s Office and Craven Pamlico Animal Services Center had quite a bit to say about the raid.
“It is just so sad,” Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes said. “When you go back there and look at it and see the conditions that these animals are being kept in, there is not an excuse for it. We are not going to tolerate it.”
Deputies rounded up 223 animals Tuesday morning following a two-week long investigation.
“This is more than just having two dogs and they have a litter of puppies,” Sheriff Hughes said. “It is an effort they have been doing to breed animals, and the conditions are very poor.”
Sheriff Hughes said this could be just the tip of the iceberg of a multi-county operation.
“They are trafficking [animals] from one county to the next for sale,” Hughes said. “There are multiple breeders and multiple locations, so it is fairly complex. As we started digging into this, we found out more and more, and now that we have found some dead animals here, that is very concerning as well.”
Hughes said the couple involved is breeding and selling all kinds of animals while claiming to be a non-profit.
The couple allegedly removed around 100 animals from the home in the days leading up to the raid.
“We are trying to find out where they went because we have a parvovirus problem with these puppies,” Hughes said. “Where does that spread to?”
Hughes said it is a public health concern as many are Parvo-plagued puppies and other disease-ridden animals.
“For instance, there are rats here, and there are children that also live at this home,” Hughes said. “There is potential for disease with rats to spread to the children that go to school. They spread it to other children, not to mention the ammonia levels in the house are extremely high. The potential for sickness is there. It is very far-reaching.”
“The county has been neglected for many years, so we are seeing a lot of this,” animal cruelty investigator Christian Smith said.
“It is going to take probably a year or better for cases like this of this size in order to get the county clean to even maintain it at this point,” Smith said.
The sheriff’s office said they are working with other counties to sting similar operations, as Hughes believes these people are working together across counties.
They are also investigating where the other animals went.
The animals recovered Tuesday will not be put down.
Instead, all are being cared for at rescue organizations or animal shelters such as Craven Pamlico Animal Services.
“They are going to take these animals, care for them, clean them up, get them the vaccinations they need and find good homes for them,” Hughes said.
While it is unclear exactly how many animals are currently at the shelter, workers told 9 On Your Side Wednesday that a variety of animals were delivered Tuesday afternoon.
The animals are now getting medical assessments.
Once they are medically cleared, they will be up for adoption.
The shelter is also taking approved fosters.
While some animals are being cared for locally, the vast majority went home with out-of-state rescue groups.
One group who assisted was Compass Rose Rescue.
“We are foster-based, so we kind of operate out of New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, even North Carolina,” Deana Spinelli with Compass rose said. “Wherever a dog is going to be able to have a good home.”
The sheriff’s office said the out-of-state groups are essential as Craven County does not have the resources to handle all the animals.
The investigation is on-going.
Animal control said the most important thing the community can do is take initiative and report anything related to animal abuse or neglect, no matter how small it may seem.