Police: NC man moved, left 4 dogs in cages to die

Police: NC man moved, left 4 dogs in cages to die

SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WNCN) - Clayton Police said Tuesday a man was arrested on animal cruelty charges after he moved from a home in downtown Clayton and left four dogs locked in metal cages to die.

The dogs had been there for at least four weeks, and possibly up to two months, Clayton Police Chief Blair Myhand said.

Willis Wayne Hodges, 53, of Smithfield, is charged with four felony counts of animal cruelty. He was arrested on Johnson Court in Smithfield Tuesday morning with no incident, the release said.

Dylan Zelenka has lived next to the home at 229 E Stallings Street for two years. He said he started to notice an odor coming from the house last week, initially thinking it was wood rot.

"You can see it's rotting away at the seams," Zelenka said.

By the end of the week, the smell was so unbearable he called police.

"I said, 'It smells like death over there and you need to come somebody over here,'" Zelenka said.

Officers went inside to find three small dogs and a larger dog locked their crates without access to food or water. Myhand said three dogs were dead, but a fourth dog lifted its head as the officers entered.

"One of the dogs was barely alive at the time. The house was filthy. There were bugs and maggots. It was a pretty foul. It was a disgusting scene," Myhand said.

Myhand said the fourth dog was rushed to a local animal hospital, but doctors were forced to euthanize the dog.

Two of the dogs that were already dead were taken to the N.C. Veterinary Center for necropsies, Myhand said. The third that had already died was too decomposed to even tell what type of dog it was.

"Police officers have seen a lot of stuff, and that probably ranks up there with the top," Myhand said.

Police said the home belonged to Hodges' mother, who recently passed away. Hodges moved into the home with a woman, her adult son, and their four dogs.

They all recently moved to Smithfield, police said.

"I knew they had multiple animals. They had a revolving door of animals that lived there. There [were] pitbulls, tiny dogs, bigs dogs. It was a lot, and a lot more than what they found," Zelenka said.

Hodges is being detained in the Johnston County Detention Center. He was given a $100,000 bond.

"There's never any excuse for any animal owner to leave their pets or abandon their pets in such a manner. There are tons of resources," Myhand said.

Myhand says he expects more charges will be filed.