TARBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — An animal rescue group in Edgecombe County thought it was sending dogs out of state for a better life, but group members became suspicious and police said those suspicions were spot on.

Janice Thompson is the President of Tender Mercies Pet Organization. Two dogs, Brandi and Roxy, are now back in her care after living in a New Jersey home where police found 100 deceased dogs on the property.

Thompson said she turned to a rescue group in New Jersey for help, thinking the group had foster homes lined up for the four litters and three adult dogs in her care. She said the group was recommended to her.

“Our goal is to save dogs and find them homes,” Thompson said.

She became suspicious, however, after asking for adoption updates and photos of the adult dogs.

“I told her Brandi don’t look healthy,” Thompson said. “I said her head’s lot smaller than it was when she left. I said I want a full-body picture. She never did.”


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Then she was told a dog she sent there died.

“My gut tells me something’s not right,” she said.

A group member went to New Jersey to bring back Brandi and Roxy. Thompson said he was told one of the dogs needed a bath first before they could come out, which made the group member even more suspicious. So he contacted Evesham, NJ police.

“He was the one that picked up on this and came forward, and, you know, was the, I guess the catalyst for us to be able to identify this issue that was going on in our community,” Evesham Police Chief Walt Miller said.

Miller said the investigation is still ongoing, but described what officers already found at the home.

“There was a large outside area where they had a, basically like an open pit, that they were dumping dogs into the pit and covering it with a tarp and our estimates exceed 100 dogs in this house that were deceased,” Miller said.

Miller said a child lived there too. Officers removed about a dozen living dogs from the home, some had to go to a local animal hospital for care and Miller said one had to be euthanized.

Police arrested the two people living there, Rebecca Halbach and Brandon Laconey, and charged them with endangering the welfare of a child and animal cruelty.

Thompson said that even though the rescue group in New Jersey was recommended to her by another rescue group a lesson she learned is always do your own homework. Miller said officers are investigating if the organization Thompson sent the dogs to is involved with animal cruelty inside the home. 

She said Brandi and Roxy were covered in fleas and were dirty and emaciated after leaving the home. Roxy also has Lyme disease. 

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“I’m glad this woman can no longer make dogs suffer and some of them were saved,” Thompson said. “Even though I was too late to save the 100 that they found at least maybe we saved 100 in the future.”

Thomspon is still holding out hope that the dog she was told passed, Shadow, is in fact alive due to information she’s received from other people.

Miller is asking anyone who has provided dogs to Halbach and Laconey, or anyone with information, to reach out to the department at 856-983-1116.