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Police raid alleged puppy mill

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

WOODLAWN — Virginia State Police conducted a search last Thursday at 4207 Coulson Church Road after receiving a report of dogs living in "substandard conditions" there, according to Sgt. Mike Conroy.

As a result, authorities seized 63 dogs from the property, owned by David Winesett.

No charges have been filed and the investigation continues, Conroy told The Gazette on Friday.

Investigators filed a search warrant in Carroll courts in order to check on conditions of an outbuilding where the dogs were kept.

"We had received information that conditions may not be adequate there," Conroy said.

Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services assisted with the search, as did Kathy Davieds, a veterinarian associated with Virginia PAWS.

The Floyd County vet had testified about conditions she found at Horton's Pups in Hillsville, a commercial animal breeder featured in a large-scale puppy mill probe across Virginia.

Angels of Assisi helped with collecting the dogs at the Winesett property, loading them in pet carriers for transport in a box truck to a facility in Roanoke.

Law enforcement officials were on the scene for several hours in Woodlawn, using portable equipment to light up the area so their work could continue after dark.

The dogs were being further evaluated on Friday to check on their condition and to find if there were animal cruelty or neglect issues. Those are legal questions to be decided by the courts, Conroy added.

State law requires a court hearing to be held within 10 business days from the seizure to decide custody issues for the dogs, Conroy said.

Reports from the vets will be sent to Carroll's commonwealth's attorney to decide if charges will be placed in this situation. Generally, Conroy advised individuals with animals to be proactive in caring for them.

When hay prices skyrocketed over the summer, some people couldn't afford to feed their horses appropriately, and that led to legal actions.

Owners could arrange to get help in situations like this if they contact animal shelters or animal advocacy groups. By doing that, animal owners could avoid being brought up on charges.

Conroy urged that, rather letting the animals deteriorate and suffer, make those arrangements. "You don't want it to get to an abusive or neglectful state.”

He also encouraged citizens with concerns about animals to report cases of suspected neglect to the proper authorities.