Starving animals rescued in Boone County (video)
DANVILLE, W.Va. -- A forearm-sized Pekingese Shih Tzu mix waddles calmly out of the shade of her horse stable and into the warm afternoon sunlight.
She plops down in a soft patch of grass and slowly raises her head.
Her eyes are glazed and milky with cataracts. Her black and gray fur is matted and unwashed. She has scratched away splotches of it, exposing portions of her skin eaten away and infected by mange. Sores and scabs cover her face and ears.
She is one out of more than 100 dogs and cats that were rescued from an animal adoption center in Boone County on Wednesday night. Sheriff's deputies and Humane Society rescue workers took the animals to the county fairgrounds, and are treating them out of the stables.
"I've seen pictures from other cases in other states," said Sommer Wyatt, director of the state division of the U.S. Humane Society as she examined the little dog. "This animal is an example of one of the worst cases I have ever seen."
The animals spent months in small, rusty cages on the cold concrete floors of an old schoolhouse in Ottawa. Feces littered the floor. The smell of ammonia permeated the air, Wyatt said.
A Boone County woman owns the adoption center. Police said she operates it through donations. Police have not yet released the woman's name -- or filed charges.
She finds stray dogs and cats off the streets, a friend of the woman said. She rescues others from the Boone County Animal Shelter before they are euthanized, he said.
"I think that the villain here is not her," the man said. He asked that his name not be published.
When deputies and Humane Society workers found the animals at the school, they had very little food. Water and electricity had been shut off long ago, deputies said.
The animals cringed when rescue workers shined lights onto them.
Boone County Sheriff Rodney Miller said the woman could face more than 100 animal-cruelty charges -- one for each animal rescued.
Besides the Pekingese, many of the dogs and cats were starving and emaciated. Only the larger breeds, like the Rottweilers, boxers and pit bulls, looked well fed.
"It's not just about food and water," Leighann McCullum, director of the Tennessee division of the Humane Society said. "It would be like if you lived in your own bathroom."
Authorities are still trying to pin down the exact number of cats, which are still being kept at the schoolhouse because rescue workers have not yet found a place for them at the fairgrounds.
Humane Society workers and sheriff's deputies expect to keep the animals at the stable for about two weeks. All of them will be adopted out, Wyatt said.
PetSmart Charities donated a truckload of cages, food and other supplies for the animals almost as soon as they heard of the rescue effort, Wyatt said. Humane Society workers and volunteers helped unload and unpack the pallets that came off the semi-truck Thursday afternoon.
The Pekingese sits in the sunlight for a few minutes.
Wyatt bends down and holds a hand over the dog's face. She barely notices Wyatt's gestures.
The small Pekingese is almost completely blind, Wyatt says, as she gently rubs the dog's forehead. It draws its ears back slightly and, after a few minutes, curls up into a ball on the grass. Wyatt watches her and says, "She can still make someone a good pet."
Reach Zac Taylor at Zachary.Taylor@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5189.