(This story by Zack Steen originally appeared in the Daily Corinthian on October 30, 2014 and appears here with permission.)

More than 170 animals were rescued from two large-scale puppy mills in Alcorn County early Wednesday morning.

Deputies served a search warrant to Larry Meeks, whose Kendrick Road property housed a puppy mill, which is a commercial animal breeding facility where profits are more important than animal welfare.

“We had received multiple complaints over the last six months about the property,” said Corinth-Alcorn Animal Shelter volunteer director Charlotte Doehner. “The smell and the noise had really become a problem for neighbors.”

Volunteers and support staff from the Humane Society of the United States assisted the local shelter with the removal and treatment of the 123 cats, dogs and livestock discovered on the property located just west of Kimberly Clark.

“It really tugs on your heart to see such beautiful animals being treated like this,” said Doehner. “These are deplorable conditions, worst than anyone could image.”

About 100 yards off Kendrick Road behind a thick strip of pine trees and a dilapidated house were more than two dozen wire cages stacked two and three high that housed various breeds of dogs and cats. Most cages sat at least one foot off the ground.

Dogs breeds on the property included Pomeranians, Chihuahuas, Yorkies, Blue Heelers, Boston Terriers, Miniature Grey Hounds, English Bulldogs and Whippets. Several designer breeds were also found, including Labradoodles and Yorkiepoos.

“It is believed that these animals were being sold at First Monday in Ripley, a flea market in Tupelo and a Crump, Tenn., flea market,” said Doehner.

Several very expensive cat breeds were also discovered on the less than one acre lot, including Persian, Himalayan and Maine Coon.

They were living in heart breaking conditions with no access to clean water or food. Many of the animals were underweight and were suffering from a multitude of untreated medical conditions, including dental, eye, ear and skin problems. Two deceased dogs were found.

Rescuers also found ducks, chickens, roosters, bunnies, goats, a donkey and a miniature pig living on the property.

“Two cats and three dogs were removed from the residence,” said the volunteer director. “We believe the animals living inside the home were the breeders.”

Around 40 dogs and four horses were also removed from the Highway 350 property owned by Orville Greenhall.

Housed inside a barn behind the main residence about one mile from the Tennessee stateline, the animals did not have access to clean water or proper food. Piles of feces and maggots were present throughout.

Groups are safely transporting the animals to various locations outside the county where they will be thoroughly examined by teams of veterinarians and receive any necessary medical treatment. The dogs will be moved to the Humane Society of South Mississippi and the other animals will be moved to the Mississippi Animal Rescue League and other care providers in the state.

“This rescue really exemplifies the need for stronger animal cruelty laws. I’m grateful we could provide relief for these animals,” said Doehner. “I’m so appreciative of all of the groups that came together to help give them the care they deserve. The City of Corinth also helped us in the early scouting of the properties.”

Doehner said she could not provide any information on charges against the property owners at this time.

“Because of the way the laws are written, animal cruelty or operating a puppy mill is considered is misdemeanor,” she said. “All animals at both locations were surrended.”

The Atlanta Humane Society, Heinz Veterinary Services, the Humane Society of South Mississippi, Loving Friends Transport, Mississippi Animal Rescue League, Southern Pines Animal Shelter and local veterinarians assisted law enforcement with the rescue and removal of the dogs.

“These animals were living unimaginable lives for far too long – no animal should ever have to suffer like they did,” said Lydia Sattler, Mississippi state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “We’re thankful to Alcorn-Corinth Animal Shelter and the Alcorn County Sheriff’s Department for stepping up to help these animals.”

Funding was provided by the Humane Society of the United States with PetSmart Charities providing the necessary food, supplies and enrichment items for the animals.

The work isn’t complete, according to Doehner.

“We are aware of more possible puppy mills in Alcorn County,” she said. “And we don’t plan on stopping until they have all been raided.”

(The Humane Society of the United States has established a reward program to offer up to $5,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of a puppy mill operator for animal cruelty. Persons wishing to report a valid tip are encouraged to call 1-877-MILL-TIP and will remain anonymous.)


Puppy mill victims being treated at Gulfport humane society

(This story by Zack Steen originally appeared in the Daily Corinthian on November 7, 2014 and appears here with permission.)

GULFPORT – When the Humane Society of South Mississippi was asked to travel to Alcorn County last week to help with two large scale puppy mill raids, they had no idea what to expect.

“The conditions were deplorable — nothing like we imagined,” said Donor Relations Manager Brittany Chowske, who was in Corinth with 21 other HSSM staff members and volunteers to help with the recuse. “We have been on many puppy mill raids across the South, but the one in Corinth was by far the worst we’ve ever seen.”

HSSM assisted the Corinth-Alcorn Animal Shelter and the Humane Society of the United States with the removal and on-site treatment of the abused animals during the Oct. 29 rescue at two Alcorn County properties.

Charges have yet to be filed against either puppy mill property owner. A puppy mill is a commercial animal breeding facility where profits are more important than animal welfare. It is believed that the animals, more than 170 dogs, cats and livestock, where breed repeatedly and sold at flea markets in Ripley, Tupelo and Crump, Tenn.

“Our hearts were broken seeing them in those terrible conditions, but at the same time we were happy because we knew what their future held,” she said. “We knew we were about to give them a second chance at life.”

Chowske said HSSM transported 123 small-breed dogs and puppies from Corinth to Gulfport on two passenger vans and two box trucks.

“It was like homecoming when we got back to Gulfport,” she said. “Everyone was at the facility ready to help do whatever necessary to take care of the dogs.”

Once on the ground, each animal received an in depth examination from trained veterinarians. The animals also received flea treatment, vaccinations, grooming and individualized attention. Because the dogs came from special circumstances, HSSM plans to spend extra time getting to know more about their health status, temperaments and individual qualities.

“We discovered most of the dogs were in fair condition to be coming from such a horrible environment,” said Marketing Specialist Krystyna Schmitt. “We had a few dogs with some skin issues and a few with muscular issues. We also discovered we had a lot more pregnant mammas’ then we originally thought.”

Schmitt said the pregnant dogs were treated and placed into foster care immediately.

“This week most of the dogs are getting groomed and having their teeth cleaned. We will then be sending them out for spray or neuter surgery,” she said.

HSSM is the largest animal welfare organization in the state. Founded in 1952, the organization cared for more than 10,000 homeless pets in 2013 and is currently working towards ending pet overpopulation on the gulf coast. HSSM is an open admissions shelter and turns no pet away based on health, age or behavioral status.

The Alcorn County raid was HSSM’s second largest intake to date. In 2013, the gulf coast organization helped with the seizure and rescue of more than 300 abused animals in Harrison County.

Their latest marketing campaign, deemed “Prisoners of Greed”, features the Alcorn County puppy mill victims. Chowske said plans are to host a special adoption day later this month.

“This has been a journey I’ll never forget. When the animals were first rescued, they were in such awful living conditions and were very skittish and unsure of us,” she said. “After just a short time at our facility around loving and caring people, they have started to open up. Now we can walk in the room and their tails automatically begin to wag.”

“It’s like they are becoming hole again — it has been such a heartfelt transformation to witness,” said Chowske.

(To make a donation toward the care of the neglected and abused dogs from Alcorn County, contact the Humane Society of South Mississippi at 228-863-3354, ext. 102 or visit hssm.org. The Humane Society of the United States has established a reward program to offer up to $5,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of a puppy mill operator for animal cruelty. Persons wishing to report a valid tip are encouraged to call 1-877-MILL-TIP and will remain anonymous.)


Charges filed against accused puppy mill owners

(This story by Zack Steen originally appeared in the Daily Corinthian on November 21, 2014 and appears here with permission.)

Charges were filed this week against the owners of the two large scale Alcorn County puppy mills raided in late October.

Larry and Juanita Meeks of 3425 County Road 100 and Orville and Gloria Greenhaw of 15 County Road 159 had an initial appearance in Alcorn County Justice Court on Wednesday. Charges include cruelty, neglect and abuse of animals and livestock in connection with the search and seizure of more than 170 abused animals.

The owners will appear back in court within six weeks where the county will present the judge with evidence gathered by investigators during the raids. The owners could face fines, but no jail time.

“In the state of Mississippi the first animal cruelty offense is considered a misdemeanor. The second offense is considered a felony,” said Charlotte Doehner, Corinth-Alcorn Animal Shelter volunteer director. “As massive of the amount of animals as the raids uncovered, the court will only count them as one offense. This is why these laws must be changed.”

Doehner said the shelter is also seeking felony charges for the abused livestock on each property. She said the state issues $1 per animal fines for those without up-to-date rabies shots, as well.

“The conditions we found were deplorable,” Doehner added. “An action must be taken and a message must be sent to anyone else in our community doing this kind of activity.”

Officials from the Humane Society of the United States assisted the local shelter in the more than $200,000 removal and onsite treatment of the abused animals during the Oct. 29 rescue.

The animals, mostly expensive breed dogs and cats often sold at flea markets, were living in heart-breaking conditions with no access to clean water or food. Many of the animals were underweight and were suffering from a multitude of untreated medical conditions. Piles of feces and maggots were present throughout each property.

Groups safely transported the animals to various locations outside the county where they were thoroughly examined by teams of veterinarians and received necessary medical treatment.

(The Humane Society of the United States has established a reward program to offer up to $5,000 to anyone who provides information leading to the arrest and conviction of a puppy mill operator for animal cruelty. Persons wishing to report a valid tip are encouraged to call 1-877-MILL-TIP and will remain anonymous.)


Puppy mill owners plead guilty

(This story by Zack Steen originally appeared in the Daily Corinthian on February 7, 2015 and appears here with permission.)

The owners of the two puppy mills raided last year pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal abuse charges in Alcorn County Justice Court Thursday.

Larry and Juanita Meeks and Orville and Gloria Greenhaw each received a 90-day jail sentence, a $500 fine and a lifetime ownership ban on animals.

“I am extremely pleased with the outcome of this case,” said Corinth-Alcorn Animal Shelter volunteer director Charlotte Doehner. “I hope the people throughout Alcorn County who are currently involved with any type of animal abuse see that we mean business.”

The jail sentence was suspended for all four individuals due to their age. The ownership ban will allow one family pet per household.

Officials with the Humane Society of the United States assisted Doehner and her staff in the removal and onsite treatment of 171 abused animals from Greenhaw’s property in northeastern Alcorn County about one mile from the Tennessee line and Meeks’ property on Kendrick Road adjacent to Kimberly Clark. The October raids cost the Humane Society more than $200,000.

The animals, mostly expensive breed dogs and cats often sold at flea markets, were living in intolerable conditions with no access to clean water or food. Many of the animals were underweight and were suffering from a multitude of untreated medical conditions. Piles of feces and maggots were present throughout each property.

The animals were thoroughly examined by teams of veterinarians and received necessary medical treatment while still in Alcorn County. The dogs were then taken to the Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport and were adopted in November. The other animals were transported to various locations outside the county for adoption.

“We would like to thank Bob Moore for putting this case together and everyone with the Humane Society who helped with the search and seizure,” added Doehner.

Judge Jimmy McGee presided over the case.