Animal lover's horror led outcry against Hoke shelter

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Concern for animals drove a woman to start a campaign against conditions at the unlicensed animal center.

Jamie Harris says she is no whistleblower, but an animal lover who was horrified by what she saw at "The Haven," a no-kill animal shelter in Raeford.

"I think North Carolina really needs to step up their game when it comes to animal protection laws," Harris said. "And I feel the state should use this as an example."

The state's largest no-kill shelter was shut down this week, its owners, Linden and Stephen Spear are charged with animal cruelty. They are barred from the property until an investigation is completed.

Harris says seeing ASPCA volunteers treat and examine animals at the shelter brought tears of relief to her eyes.

"I know I woke up today and had almost 200 messages from people that had turned in their animals to The Haven, but had no idea this was going on"

Investigators say the shelter operated for 20 years, the last ten without a state license.

Thursday, volunteers started moving many of the 600 dogs, cats, horses, birds and livestock to a temporary emergency shelter.

RELATED: Dead animals uncovered during Hoke animal shelter raid

Harris, a Fayetteville native, says she visited the shelter for the first time this past June, and was sickened by what she saw.

"There was trash everywhere, bags of feces, it smelled awful," she said. "We saw an older dog lying on the ground. It could not get up. All we heard was its whining, and it had two or three large open wounds with maggots in them."

Harris says she immediately filed a complaint with the State Agriculture Department and the Hoke County Sheriff's Office. Then she and three friends set up a Facebook Page called "Help for unlicensed Animal Shelter "The Haven."

She was overwhelmed by the response.

"We got hundreds of stories every day. We made hundreds of phone calls and emailed thousands of times. It really took the whole community coming together to do it.

Those complaints led to the discovery of filthy and unhealthy conditions at the shelter. Thursday an ASPCA Spokesman said they had already found more than a dozen dead dogs on the property.

"I think it's unfortunate that they hadn't been shut down earlier. The conditions we are seeing here didn't happen overnight" said Tim Rickey, ASPCA Spokesman.

Linden and Stephen Spear could face more charges

As the investigation continues, they have declined to comment.

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