STOKES COUNTY, N.C. -- Stokes County district attorney Ricky Bowman said the maximum penalty that the owners of a suspected puppy mill could have received is probation.
Bowman spoke publicly for the first time Tuesday about his decision to drop 27 misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty against Willis and Lucille Mabe. The Humane Society raided the Mabes' property in Danbury on Feb. 7 and seized more than 160 dogs.
Bowman said this was the first animal cruelty case of this size to come through his jurisdiction in Stokes and Surry counties.
"I met with the Mabes," Bowman said in a phone interview. "They were very remorseful. They felt bad about what had happened, and Mrs. Mabe to my knowledge had no criminal record."
Bowman agreed to drop the charges as long as the Mabes don't breed or sell animals for two years. Bowman reserved the right to reopen the case anytime during that two-year span.
Bowman has received a lot of criticism since the decision was announced on Wednesday, but Bowman said he made the right call.
"I was trying to do everything I could to make sure these animals would not be returned under any situation to the Mabes," Bowman said. "I wanted to make sure they would not have a kennel for two years."
"We really do feel the owner in this situation should have faced a bigger penalty," said Kim Alboum, state director of the Humane Society.
The Humane Society released video of the raid on Tuesday. The Guilford County Animal Shelter took in more than 100 of the animals seized.
Shelter director Marsha Williams said kennels were covered in feces and urine, and ammonia levels were so high that it gave some dogs eye problems.
"That was shocking to me--to see the holes and the rats actually going in the kennels with the dogs while they're nursing, eating and drinking their water," Williams said.
Williams said she also disagrees with the DA's deal.
The animals the Guilford County Animal Shelter didn't take in went to Wake County and Charlotte.
Williams and other animal advocates have also been pushing for tougher laws on puppy mills.