Woman charged after 73 animals seized on Augusta Highway | News | The Press and Standard
by The Press and Standard | May 18, 2016 3:36 pm
Last Updated: May 18, 2016 at 2:41 pm
Colleton County Animal and Environmental Control Director Reggie McNeil says the investigation that led to the seizure of 68 dogs and five cats from a property in the 19000 block of Augusta Highway is continuing.
Wednesday, McNeil was headed back to court to obtain a search warrant to return to the property, this time to collect the remains of dead animals.
A team from animal control and the Colleton County Sheriff’s Office served the first search warrant on the property Monday afternoon.
McNeil said the investigation began when someone walking in the woods in the area allegedly found diseased and malnourished dogs in kennels in the woods and contacted animal control. Based on that complaint, McNeil took his own walk in the woods Friday. When he started getting a sense of the scope of problem, he had three other animal control officers join him in the woods.
His impression of what he found in the woods? McNeil paused, “I can’t believe this stuff.”
When he went in the woods Friday, he first found five dogs being housed in a kennel. But, he added, they could hear barking deeper in the woods. As they continued their search, they found “more dogs stuffed into more kennels.” One dog was living in an animal trap.
McNeil said that he didn’t need a search warrant to take that Friday walk in the woods but a search warrant had to be obtained to enter the residence on the property and to seize the animals being kept in the woods.
That search warrant was served Monday afternoon. McNeil, four animal control officers, the shelter’s medical technician, McNeil’s secretary and veterinarian Dr. Lori Campbell made the trip to Augusta Highway.
McNeil said his secretary came along to help handle all the paperwork. Dr. Campbell, who volunteers at the animal shelter, was asked to come to the site to advise them on the animals’ condition. “I was there to verify concerns,” Campbell said. “The conditions were deplorable.” Their condition justified the decision to seize the animals, she added. Joining the search team were Colleton County Sheriff R.A. Strickland, another command officer, a sheriff’s office canine team and an investigator.
The animals were covered in fleas and ticks. “We had to spray ourselves down when we got home that night because we had fleas and ticks on ourselves. You could use all the spray you could, but you can’t get rid of all the fleas and ticks out there,” McNeil said. All the animals, he added, were malnourished. “We didn’t see any bags of food.”
McNeil said the searchers began photographing the animals, documenting their condition and placing them in crates at about 6 p.m. Monday. They finished about two-and-a-half hours later.
McNeil sought the assistance of the Hilton Head Humane Association to house and treat the animals. The county shelter could have provided the housing for all the animals, but not medical care for all the dogs and cats. Monday, the Hilton Head organization sent van to Colleton County to tranport the animals.
McNeil said the searchers didn’t know that there were cats on the property until the sheriff’s canine unit led them to where the cats were being housed. When searchers got inside the residential structure, he added, they found a puppy that was being bottle fed. The puppy is the only rescue being housed at the local shelter.
The seized dogs were primarily miniature pinschers, Chihuahuas and shelties.
Ten citations have been filed against Lynne Lucille Van House for no rabies vaccinations, animal cruelty and having injured or dead animals on the property. McNeil said Van House said she is a breeder, but hasn’t provided veterinarian reports, rabies vaccination information or other documentation. “There is a lot of proving she has to do.” He added that additional citations could be coming. He points out that his office could file 73 counts of rabies violations, one for each dog and cat taken from the property.
“We have not had a chance to investigate it fully,” McNeil said. The ASPCA has also reportedly started its own investigation into the incident.