CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, Va. (WRIC) — A quiet street off of Bensley Road in Chesterfield County was filled with police and representatives from the Humane Society of the U.S. on Monday, Oct. 9 as officials urgently rescued 129 cats and six dogs from a home that operated as an animal breeding facility and is alleged to have more than 50 citations in violation of the Animal Welfare Act.
The Office of the U.S. Attorney General filed a civil lawsuit and restraining order against the facility’s operators. 8News Legal Analyst Russ Stone explained what this means.
“At this stage, it is simply an injunction telling them to stop doing what they’re doing,” Stone said.
Court documents included gruesome images depicting the conditions the pets were living in. To illustrate how underfed many animals were, one image showed a hand clutching a cat’s back spinal area. The cat appeared nearly skeletal, which indicated neglect. However, current legal action remains civil and the owners have not yet been hit with criminal charges.
“If you remember the Michael Vick case, that was a federal animal cruelty case,” Stone explained. “This document that they have filed now does not do that.”
The case filing noted that hazardous materials, including piles of waste and sharp objects, were left accessible near animal enclosures, which put the pets at risk. Documents also showed evidence of animals living in unsafe, unsanitary spaces being left with swollen faces and mouths, open wounds and eye problems.
The facility was initially suspended back in August for violations which included improper food storage, inadequate housing, failure to provide appropriate veterinary care and other actions consistent with animal neglect and cruelty.
Court documents shared the heartbreaking story of one kitten who was born with a chest deformity. Allegedly, the defendant unsuccessfully used a toilet paper tube to correct the deformity instead of seeking proper veterinary care.
“If the government were to pursue criminal charges of animal cruelty, it is something that carries the possibility of incarceration,” Stone said.
If the defendants don’t file a response, this could be handled as a default judgment, which means the court could automatically grant the government’s request that the business be shut down. Again, this could escalate into a criminal matter depending on the investigation.