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Puppy Mill Raided, Owner Arrested


web posted September 11 2012  4:00 pm UPDATED 7:05 pm

JOHNSTON – The Edgefield County Sheriff's Office conducted a raid Tuesday morning at a puppy mill located at 200 Holmes Pond Road just outside Johnston and took the owner, Callie Abel, 54, into custody on seven counts of ill treatment of animals. More charges are likely, Sheriff Adell Dobey said. "This is an ongoing investigation," he said. Aiding in the raid was the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) out of Washington DC who came with Animal Rescue trailers and dozens of volunteers, staff, and veterinarians. Nearly 300 animals were being seized including nine horses.

After the scene was cleared by the Sheriff's Office around 8:30 am, the HSUS took over the logistics of inspecting each animal and tracking where each was taken and logged in before being placed in new kennels for transport to a holding facility in Columbia. From there each will be given full medical examinations to determine which dogs can be saved.

During a quick briefing, one of the team leaders said the group has done raids across the country, "and this is one of the largest raids I've ever been involved with, if not the largest."

Left: Sheriff Dobey and HSUSA workers examine a pile of burned bones.

The total number of animals was estimated at over 200 dogs, dozens of fowl (ducks, geese, chickens) and nine horses. There were additional dogs in the home and others running loose on the property. The number of bones littering the property were claimed to be deer bones, however; Kim Kelly stated that one of the vets said they were from "small animals". Trying to assertain how many animals would be pure speculation Kelly said.

Sheriff Dobey said his office had been receiving complaints about the owner and Animal Control has inspected the property previously, the last time believed to be in 2009, but conditions were within the law. The ony recent complaints were about noise, not ill treatment of animals Inv. Doran said. That obviously changed over time and after an undercover investigation brought probable cause warrants were issued and the raid went into the planning stage.

There were kennels on the ground, above the ground, fenced in areas, and the ground was littered with bones. There were two piles of what appeared to be ashes with more bones than ashes. Atop some of the kennels were spinal columns with ribs and rotting portions of the carcass still attached.

Water bowls, often times small children's pools, contained green water and others were muddy. Though a majority of the dogs appeared to be well fed, they were dirty and many had matted hair. Others were obviously underfed and appeared ill.

Investigators on the scene said the inside of the home the couple lived in was even worse. There were an unknown number of dogs in the house, some in kennels, and feces around the house. Trash was piled all around with only a narrow path to make their way around in the house.

In addition to the seven arrest warrants, a search warrant was also executed seizing a computer, paperwork, records, and other evidence. Chief Investigator Randy Doran said Abel was selling most of the animals over the internet.

"We're still working on it (the investigation) and we're going to file for more warrants," Inv. Doran said Tuesday night

Kim Kelly, State Director for the HSUS, said they have been working with the Edgefield County Sheriff's Office since mid July. They aided in the investigation by having associates obtain dogs from Abel that were later found to have a list of medical conditions ranging from skin infections, ear and eye ailments, and disease. That information led to the seven arrest warrants.

Sheriff Dobey said that it would have been nearly impossible for them to conduct the raid without the help of the Humane Society. "They have been a tremendous help," he said adding that all the records of the examinations conducted by the Humane Society will be turned over to investigators and used as evidence in the case.

Below: Sheriff Dobey speaks to Ashley Mauceri

Sate Sen. Jake Knox, who has pushed for stricter animal cruelty legislation, arrived on the scene as did Edgefield County Councilman Rodney Ashcraft. Both were horrified of what they saw.

Councilman Ashcraft said that he is willing to propose an ordinance for dog breeders in Edgefield County as a result of his visit. Ashcraft said he would make sure it did not impose any regulations on citizens who have a pair of dogs and sells the puppies. But those in the business of breeding dogs or cats on a large scale, "They need to be held to a higher standard," Ashcraft said. 

Edgefield County media were tipped to the impending raid by Sheriff Dobey and we were allowed access to the property once it was secured. Neither words nor pictures can do justice to the sights and smells of the operation. It was sickening.

According to jail officials, Abel was released on personal recognizance bonds Tuesday afternoon.

Above: One of the rotting carcasses found located on top of some of the pens.

Video footage and photo coverage taken by the HSUS will be linked when it becomes available.

See more photos taken by Edgefield Daily on the scene here.



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