WILSON, N.C. (WNCN) — There are questions looming about the rescue of more than 40 hounds from a Wilson home.

The rescue operation has been going on for a couple of weeks.


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Originally, 49 dogs belonged to a Wilson man who died in June and the man’s widow told rescuers she couldn’t take care of them.

By the time Rimertown Rescue got involved in July some of the dogs had died, leaving 42 hounds.

All of the dogs were in distress.

“Oh my God, it was horrible,” said volunteer rescuer Sherry Bass. “They had open sores, you could see the ribs, they had infected eyes and were covered in fleas.”

Bass said some dogs couldn’t stand.

“It was terrible, horrible,” she said.

Rescuers say the dogs had been fed a diet of snack cakes and stale bread obtained from a local bakery outlet store after the owner died.

“The lady’s godson was told to go and get bread, donuts and Twinkies a couple of times a week at a bread store and feed the dogs those items,” said Melanie Thrift of Rimertown Rescue.

Local volunteers were able to obtain a dozen 50-pound bags of food to try and nourish the dogs, but many were in terrible condition.

“Some of them could not even raise their heads,” said Thrift. “I wasn’t sure some of them would even make it through the night.”

It appeared to rescuers some bodies of dead dogs may have been cannibalized.

There were two dogs that were already dead and the bones of those dogs were in dog houses with the other dogs,” said Thrift. “They actually ate them to stay alive.”

CBS 17 has questions about how this situation was treated by authorities and tried to contact Wilson County Animal Control, which is run by the sheriff’s department.

Animal Control responded to our request by saying that all statements have to come from the sheriff’s media spokesperson.

She was not available at the sheriff’s department headquarters this afternoon, so consumer investigator Steve Sbraccia left a message in person for her along with a business card containing contact information.

As for the 42 hounds, it took weeks to remove them in small groups because volunteer rescue operations were overwhelmed by the numbers and the costs of treating them.

All the dogs have now been placed with a half dozen different rescue organizations from as far away as New York.

Early Saturday morning, the Wilson County Sheriff released this statement claiming no dogs had died:

“The Wilson County Sheriff’s Office opened and investigation on 07/24/23 regarding concerns about the condition of 42 hunting dogs. The report was made by a Melanie Thrift with Rimmertown Rescue.

Once animal enforcement arrived at the location, it was learned that the owner of the dogs was deceased. His widower, Mrs. Davis, reported that she had found her husband deceased inside of the dogs’  kennel and  that she could no longer go to the dogs’ kennel because she was afraid. She reported that she had others assisting her with the care of the dogs while she was attempting to have them removed from the property. Animal Enforcement also learned that the day of the investigation, Mrs. Davis was coming from the funeral home after making funeral arrangements for her father. Mrs. Davis reported that she had just lost her father a few days ago as well as her husband and it had been difficult for her the past few weeks. She stated that Mrs. Thift was there because she needed the help.

Animal Enforcement did note that some of the dogs were unweight and four were improperly tethered.  There were no dogs found deceased on the property as initially reported by Mrs. Thrift. Mrs. Davis was educated on these issues by animal enforcement and given the opportunity to correct these issues.

After the decision was made to educate, Mrs. Davis and not charge her, Mrs. Thrift became disgruntled due to no charges sought on Mrs. Davis. Mrs. Thrift became difficult to work with and pictures of the dogs began to surface on social media.

At no given time did Animal Enforcement deny Mrs. Davis assistance. We feel as though Mrs. Davis was doing everything she could do during this difficult time, after losing her husband and father.

We started this investigation and continued to follow up on this case to make sure that the dogs were receiving adequate care moving forward. It is sad to hear that the last day of the final removal of the dogs from the property, contact was made to several media outlets. This story should have been about the love and care given to Mrs. Davis and the dogs that were rescued.”

Wilson County Sheriff’s Office

CBS 17 will continue to follow this story.