In a shocking announcement today, Tamira Thayne, the founder of Dogs Deserve Better, has been charged with animal cruelty by Surry County authorities.
Dogs Deserve Better was spotlighted last year when Tamira purchased Michael Vick’s former Bad Newz Kennels property in Virginia. Vick ran his infamous dogfighting operation from the location and over 66 dogs were later rescued.
The property now operates as one of the rescue's sanctuaries for dogs who have been chained or penned up.
Surry County Animal Control indicated they had received multiple complaints in July relating to the treatment of dogs at the kennel. Officers from Virginia's Office of Veterinary Services visited the property. As result of the visit, Surry County Animal Control filed charges on Friday that allege inadequate care and cruelty at the facility. However, authorities have not yet released any specifics as to what led to the charges.
Chief Animal Control Officer Tracy Terry did verify is that the sanctuary had not been operating with state approval, saying that there were outstanding items that needed to be addressed.
Tamira Thayne was reached by Associated Press after news broke and spoke with her in a telephone interview. She said she read of the charges in a newspaper report but said that she had not spoken to authorities and had not yet been served warrants.
She told Associated Press, "I know nothing about it. I just got home from my honeymoon in St. Lucia. Apparently I was abusing dogs while I was gone." She further added, "We take special pains to make sure our dogs are safe and happy. They have a great life here...Somebody needs to tell me what the hell is going on here.''
She noted in her interview that to the best of her knowledge all points regarding state approval had been addressed and rectified with the government.
Tamira said there are currently nine dogs at the sanctuary including her personal dog.
A hearing is set for next month on September 25.
Update August 28, 2012
Details are slow to emerge regarding yesterday's news of charges laid by Surry County Animal Control towards Tamira Thayne. Neither party are revealing the nature of the charges at this time. The few details that have come forward since yesterday's news are:
- Tamira has been served. She is charged with one count of misdemeanor animal cruelty and one count of inadequate care of animals, also a misdemeanor.
- Search warrants were filed in Surry Circuit Court on Tuesday. Deputies searched the property and took away two boxes of paperwork. They also seized a Taser and several cans of mace that were allegedly used on the dogs. WTVR reports that the mace cans were found in several locations including a closet and drawers of the kitchen. Investigators also found an invoice for the purchase of the mace.
- A Pit bull named Jada was also taken by Animal Control from the property.
- WTVR CBS6 was on hand as the search of the property was underway and did a news report which has video footage of the facilities and shows Jada being taken to animal control's truck.
- Surry County Chief Animal Control Officer Tracy Terry said she began investigating on July 20 after having received mailed complaints including photographs from current and former employees and volunteers about how the dogs at the kennel were kept.
- The Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services also inspected the property last Thursday and said their investigation is ongoing.
As new details emerge, I'll continue to post updates here.
Search inventory of items seized as result of search warrant by Surry County deputies. Photo: WTVR.
Update September 23, 2012
Jada, a the Pit bull who was seized by the Surry Animal Control from the Dog Deserve Better shelter several weeks ago, has been returned to Tamira Thayne after a judge said the dog showed no signs of abuse.
Thayne still faces two misdemeanor animal abuse charges: one count each of animal cruelty and inadequate care of animals.
In an interview with WAVY.com Thayne said that the charges she is facing are false, claiming a former employee with a grudge went to deputies to get her in trouble.
She pointed out that the pepper spray found in her home "is for the protection of our staff and other dogs just in case the worst should happen." Thayne said, "Dogs have teeth, dogs can bite and dogs can kill. My staff deserves some protection."
As for the stun gun, Thayne claims her husband gave it to her.
Thayne also addressed the citation that her organization is not caring for sick dogs and keeping others in small crates. She said, "They sleep in crates here. That's for their safety. If they don't sleep in crates, you are going to have dog fights on your hands. Dogs have to be crated at night for their protection and our peace of mind."
She believes she will be vindicated of the charges, adding that she feels that Surry County should drop the charges and owes her an apology. Thayne also told WAVY.com she plans to sue the Surry County Sheriff's Office for wrongful effect if a judge finds her innocent.
The hearing, originally scheduled for September 25 in Surry General District Court, has been continued to November 13, according to court documents.
Update: September 29, 2012
According to the Daily Press, Virginia state officials have ordered Tamira Thayne to secure foster homes for the eight remaining dogs being housed at the Good Newz Rehab center in Smithfield by September 30. However, Thayne told the Daily Press that the deadline is on hold while her attorney, Fred Taylor, works with Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services officials.
For its part, the agency declined to discuss details on the deadline or any other details regarding the case.
Should the state decide to enforce their order for the removal of the dogs, the rescue will need to find foster or adoptive families for the dogs relatively quickly or the dogs will likely be taken to a shelter or boarding facility.
The state is also not allowing Dogs Deserve Better to take any more rescued dogs into the Good Newz Rehab Center in Surry County.
Photos and descriptions of the Good Newz Rehab dogs in need of foster and adoptive homes are available on the Dogs Deserve Better listings on Petfinder.
Also this week, Dogs Deserve Better launched a new fund which provides grants to cover veterinary expenses for formerly chained and penned dogs. The fund is available to individuals or other rescue groups and will help with the medical care.