Thursday, August 23, 2012 11:15 PM
28 dogs seized
Great Dane breeders accused of animal cruelty
By Corey Friedman | Times Online Editor
Sheriff’s deputies charged husband and wife Great Dane breeders with animal cruelty and seized 28 dogs from their Wilson County home in a Thursday raid.
Animal rescue groups took the dogs from Joseph and Cynthia Williams’ home at 4520 Evansdale Road south of Wilson after deputies charged the couple with abusing 10 dogs.
"The emotional damage that these dogs have endured is heartbreaking,” Kim Alboum, the Humane Society of the United States’ North Carolina director, said in a statement. "We are confident that in the right hands, their medical conditions will begin to heal as well as their broken spirits.”
Wilson County Sheriff Calvin Woodard said some of the dogs had sores and cuts from neglect and one had a tumor. An arrest warrant alleges that at least one of the dogs was starved.
Deputies began investigating Joseph and Cynthia Williams after receiving complaints from customers who bought the purebred dogs, Woodard said. The Great Danes have been sold online to out-of-state buyers.
The Humane Society calls the Williamses’ breeding business a puppy mill, but Woodard was reluctant to apply that label.
"I would hate to say that it would be characterized at this time as a puppy mill,” Woodard said. "You have a large amount of dogs at their residence that they were breeding to make some form of profit.”
Dogs barked and howled from the fenced yard behind the home when deputies arrived around 9:50 a.m. Shrubbery and a brick front porch framed the mobile home. Lush green grass blanketed the sprawling front lawn.
Deputies executed a search warrant at the home and arrested 52-year-old Joseph Williams and 44-year-old Cynthia Williams on one count each of misdemeanor cruelty to animals. Each suspect was charged with nine additional animal cruelty counts after a veterinarian examined the dogs on site.
"The warrant was to check the welfare of the animals based on observations and some recent trips Detective (Toby) Myrick made to the property,” Woodard said.
The couple’s NC Great Danes website features photos of a smiling Cynthia Williams posing with the large dogs. Her listings on PuppyFind.com advertised dogs for sale ranging from $200 to $800 on Thursday.
NC Great Danes has an "F” grade from the Better Business Bureau and an average rating of 2.78 out of a possible five paws on TheBreederRatings.com. Some customers complained of illnesses in dogs they bought from the Williams family, but several users gave the business high marks.
Teams of volunteers from the Humane Society of the United States and the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals’ Wake County chapter arrived at the home after deputies completed their search. A veterinarian examined each dog under a tent set up in the side yard.
Woodard said the rescue groups would help pay for veterinary treatment and provide temporary foster homes for the dogs. A judge would have to decide whether to remove the dogs permanently.
The sheriff said Joseph and Cynthia Williams would have to reimburse the Humane Society for all veterinary expenses if the dogs are returned.
North Carolina has no laws to regulate dog breeding and has "become a haven for some of the worst puppy mill operators in the country,” the Humane Society said in a news release.
Animal rescue groups are pushing for laws that would punish neglect and abuse at commercial dog breeding operations.
"With each puppy mill we discover in North Carolina, it becomes more and more obvious that we desperately need regulations in place to protect these helpless animals,” Alboum said in the release.
The Humane Society offers rewards of up to $5,000 to those who provide information leading to animal cruelty convictions for puppy mill operators. Wilson County residents who suspect animal abuse can call the sheriff’s office at 237-2118 or the Humane Society’s tipline at 1-877-MILL-TIP.
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©The Wilson Times, Wilson, North Carolina.
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