Crime

Conway woman agrees to release dogs seized from her home, adoptions begin

Some dogs seized from a Conway area woman’s home are available for adoption, Horry County animal shelter officials said Wednesday after the woman withdrew her motion seeking to have 146 dogs returned to her.

Renee James, 49, filed the motion Tuesday through her attorney seeking return of all the animals, and before a hearing on the motion began Wednesday she decided to withdraw the motion and pay her fine, her attorney James Dotson said.

“This lady is well known. She’s been run out of business,” Dotson said after Wednesday’s hearing. “It’s an unfortunate situation. . . . The case is over.”

James owns Pet Safari pet store in Conway and said she will continue to run her store, but she said her business has been hurt by the incident.

“It’s going to be different,” James said. “I’m very cordial and I’ve been very nice. . . . The business is going to be fine.”

James said she wanted to negotiate the return of the dogs, but county officials did not want to work with her, so she decided to give up the dogs.

“I wanted the best for the dogs. I wish the best for the dogs,” James said after the brief hearing Wednesday.

James’ motion filed Tuesday stopped about 20 of the dogs seized from her home from being adopted. Those animals had received basic medical care and were ready to go to a forever home, said Kelly Bonome, operations manager for the Horry County Animal Care Center.

“We’ve seen this before. I hope we don’t see it again, but we are prepared to handle it,” Bonome said of the puppy mill dogs seized from James.

The dogs ready for adoption are available at the county’s center, Bonome said and noted adoptions would resume Wednesday evening.

Horry County police cited James with failing to provide proper care and treatment of animals Friday, a day after officers seized 146 dogs from her. James was giving a $445 ticket.

At the time of the seizure, Horry County police Lt. Raul Denis said officers shut down a puppy mill and the dogs were living in deplorable conditions at James’ home in the 6000 block of Secondary Highway 65, which is between U.S. 701 North and S.C. 22.

It took police about five hours to collect all the animals, Denis said.

“The animals were kept in small cages, and numerous animals where sharing cages which had not been cleaned in a very long time,” Denis said.

James was cited under Horry County Ordinance 4-3 for failure to provide proper care and treatment of animals. Most of the seized dogs were adult mating pairs, but a few dogs were pregnant and some puppies were found as well, Denis said.

Bonome described the dogs that were at the county’s shelter as having severely matted coats and minor wounds that were being cared for, she said.

“They were miserable when they came in,” Bonome said describing the dogs. She said some had never been outside of their cages and their dispositions improved once they were able to walk around and given a comfortable bed to sleep on.

“They overall will be good and healthy when they leave our facility,” she said.

The sicker dogs that needed more medical care were taken in by All 4 Paws, a non-profit animal shelter in Pawleys Island, said Shannon Prouty, founder and director. The organization took in 47 adult dogs from the seizure at James’ home.

“This is a pretty exceptional case with blatant cruelty and neglect,” Prouty said after Wednesday’s hearing. “I don’t breed. I don’t see a reason to because I see so many animals.”

She said her organization has several of the dogs being treated by area veterinarians for tumors, injuries, dental disease and other health issues.

“They are not in great shape,” Prouty said describing the parents of the puppies. “Their health conditions are related to their poor housing.”

To stop more of these type incidents, Prouty said there needs to be changes to local and state laws to protect animals.

“Stricter punishments for things like this. We should have an example to the community,” Prouty said. “The community is speaking in droves.”

The dogs at Prouty’s organization will be posted on their website, All4pawssc.org, when they are available for adoption, she said. In the meantime, residents can donate blankets and money to cover veterinarian bills, she said.

Bonome estimated Wednesday that county officials had spent about $14,000 in providing for the animals with medical care, vaccinations and the dogs being spayed or neutered, she said.

“The community has been so supportive,” Bonome said. “We want to get the animals into a forever home. That’s our whole goal in the process.”

About 40 people attended Wednesday’s hearing, with most interested in the dogs being taken from James, they said.

Ann Taylor, a Myrtle Beach resident, said she attended Wednesday’s hearing because she thinks the area and South Carolina needs to improve their laws and ordinances for people hoarding animals or running puppy mill type operations.

“I couldn’t be happier [about James’ decision to release ownership of the dogs]. This is what we hoped for. This is such a terrible injustice. She exploits these animals for profit,” Taylor said. “Horry County is lagging behind in animal welfare care.”

Taylor said she and some concerned residents are planning to form a group to speak up for the animals and hopefully change laws.

“We want to step up the ordinances and laws,” Taylor said. “We want to increase the animal welfare laws because they are so lax here.”

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