CALDWELL COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - The owner of a kennel where nearly 300 puppies and dogs were seized in June pleaded guilty to more than 100 of animal cruelty on Thursday.
William "Bill" Thomas Allen plead guilty to 104 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty and two misdemeanor counts of failing to bury deceased animals.
The animals were seized from the Allen's property on Thursday, June 16. Officials said they found hundreds of puppies living in deplorable conditions at the Mason Creek Kennel in Hudson.
In a Caldwell County courtroom Thursday, Allen received a 45 day suspended sentence and a 3 year probation, and more punishment may still be handed down.
Prosecutors did not seek the maximum punishment against Allen. "Because of his health issues, he did not need to go to jail," said Investigator Shannan Foster.
In addition to the suspended sentence and probation, the judge ordered Allen to pay a fine of $100 and court costs and not to be in the business of buying or selling animals.
Allen, who is confined to a wheelchair, was charged after 34 warrants were drawn up on the misdemeanor cruelty charges.
The Caldwell County Health Department executed the search and seizure warrant for 276 dogs at the kennel, located about 55 miles northwest of Charlotte.
Officials said Allen had dozens of kennels containing a variety of dog breeds including Bichon Frise, Boston Terriers, French Bulldogs, Japanese Chins, and Pomeranians.
Allen, who was warned in May to clean up his kennels, talked to WBTV in June and said that he is disabled from diabetes and wasn't getting enough help.
"Sales have been really bad and they just accumulated," said Allen, who also confirmed he wouldn't try to ever breed dogs again. "I thought I did what I needed to do."
All of the puppies seized from Allen's kennel have been given to various rescue groups to adopt out once the animals receive a clean bill of health.
"I just didn't have enough time," Allen said. "I did love em, I do love dogs...(this is the) first time I haven't had one at my place."
Officials say Allen surrendered 37 animals to animal control two weeks before the seizure.
Following his arrest, Allen was released from custody on a written promise to appear in court because he's cooperated with the investigation. His first court appearance was scheduled for July 21.
Veterinarians who examined the dogs that were seized said there was no evidence the animals had been beaten or tortured.
Dr. Donna Craig said, "It was a case of neglect, chronic neglect."
Dr. Craig said many animals were sick and had matted fur that was causing other disease problems.
Foster said he felt he had no choice but to charge Allen, though he felt it was a case of the puppy business getting out of hand, and that while Allen tried to take care of the animals, he couldn't because of health issues.
The dogs were temporarily housed at a shelter at the Caldwell County Fairgrounds on Highway 321 in Lenoir. Caldwell County Animal Control (CCAC) kept only five of the 276 dogs seized from Thomas' property.
Of that five, two Pomeranians were adopted. The other three dogs were still receiving medical check-ups.
The remaining 271 animals rescued were dispersed throughout seven shelters in North Carolina and Virginia.
Forty of the dogs were taken to the Humane Society in Charlotte, where officials said there was such an outpouring of support, they couldn't accept any more food donations.
According to the Better Business Bureau of Southern Piedmont, Mason Creek Kennels had an "F" rating for "failing to respond to complaints.
"The business had four complaints of which two complaints are unanswered and one complaint is unresolved," said BBB Spokeswoman Janet Hart. "Of the four complaints, one complaint involved a guarantee or warranty issue and three complaints involved problems with the 'products' purchased." Click here to read the BBB report.
During the seizure, the health department said "several dead animals were found as well as dozens of animals packed in crates with feces and garbage throughout the home and surrounding buildings."
Alboum says the state has failed to pass anti-puppy mill legislation for the past three years.
Opponents of the proposed legislation called it "overly broad" saying it targeted almost everyone that owned a dog and wanted to breed it.
Officials said if communities want to enforce animal abuse laws better, people should report these violations to their local animal control office.