BELPRE - After receiving complaints from neighbors, the Washington County Sheriff's Office and volunteers with the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley removed about 50 dogs from a residence on Way Road during the execution of a search warrant Friday afternoon.
The dogs were located on property belonging to Richard and Carol Lancaster, 802 Way Road, Belpre.
"We got a complaint that dogs were attacking cattle at this location,"said Washington County Sheriff's Deputy Kelly Schubert, the county dog warden.
Members of the Washington County Sheriff’s Office and volunteers with the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley work to remove dogs from a property on Way Road in Belpre on Friday. About 50 dogs were removed from the property.
KEVIN PIERSON The Marietta Times
Following the complaint, Schubert traveled to the mobile home and assessed the situation, where she found dozens of dogs inside and outside the house living in poor conditions.
The animals were fed and watered, but lacked sufficient quantities and quality of both. Dogs residing inside the mobile home were living in squalid conditions.
"The floor is covered in feces and urine. Most of the furniture is covered, too," Schubert said.
About 20 dogs resided inside the mobile home, along with Richard Lancaster, 63, and his wife, Carol, 59.
Along with the approximately 20 dogs in the house, there were about 30 running around outside on the property. There was a fence enclosing the property, but it was incomplete with several gaps that allowed the dogs to escape the yard.
Getting an exact count on the dogs was impossible until they were all captured, which officials did not expect for several hours Friday afternoon.
"There's such movement we're not sure (how many there are)," Schubert explained.
While the dogs did not appear physically malnourished, they did exhibit symptoms of parasites including blood in the feces and urine. Richard Lancaster said he had had some of his dogs die for an unknown reason as well, which also indicated a disease, Schubert said.
The Lancasters were allowed to keep three of the dogs. They are prohibited from owning more than three dogs in the future as they lack the means to provide for them. The Lancasters signed a letter stipulating that they would surrender the dogs to law enforcement and be unable to keep more than three.
"It wasn't that these people didn't care about their dogs. They just couldn't take care of them," said Marietta Assistant Law Director Daniel Everson, who issued the search warrant.
The dogs removed from the property will all be spayed or neutered and were transported to the Washington County Fairgrounds where there were several veterinarians waiting to examine them Friday evening.
"We are responsible for taking care of the animals in the county as well as the people," said Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks.
No charges were brought against the Lancasters on Friday as the dogs had yet to be examined to determine their actual condition.
It is possible that charges could be filed in the future, although there may end up being no action taken against the couple, Mincks said.
"Our immediate concern is the health and welfare of the dogs," he said.
To spay or neuter a dog costs approximately $110 and the animals must also be fed and sheltered, so donations to the Humane Society of the Ohio Valley are encouraged, Schubert said.
Even though the dogs had to be removed from the home, it was not due to intentional neglect, but rather the incapability to provide for them, she continued.
"They said they love them. These are their dogs," Schubert said.