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Founder of dog rescue operation faces animal abuse charges

By Allison T. Williams, Daily Press (Newport News, Va.) –

SURRY, Va. — The founder and executive director of Dogs Deserve Better, a chained dog rescue that operates where Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick once owned a dog-fighting compound, is facing animal abuse charges, said Surry County Chief Animal Control Officer Tracy Terry.

Tamira Thayne, who opened the Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs in June 2011, was charged with one count of inadequate care of animals, a Class 4 misdemeanor, on Thursday, said Terry. A hearing on that charge is scheduled for Sept. 25 in Surry General District Court.

She was also charged Monday with misdemeanor animal cruelty, said Terry, and deputies executed a search warrant at the center.

Both charges carry fines of up to $1,000 and/or are punishable with a year in jail upon conviction. Any person convicted of animal cruelty can be prohibited from owning or possessing companion animals, according to state code.

Thayne, back in Surry after her honeymoon in the Caribbean, was in tears Monday after learning of the allegations.

“This is most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard in my life,” she said.

“Our dogs are wonderfully taken care. I shouldn’t have to fight anything (related to the charges),” Thayne said. “But I guess I’m going to have to find an attorney for this.”

The criminal charges are the most recent problems Thayne and her organization have faced since relocating from Pennsylvania to Vick’s 4,600-square-foot house and several exterior kennels last year.

Thayne was criticized last year for using donations to buy such an elaborate property and for cutting back veterinary services for rescue dogs. A former employee, Giles County resident Shannon Allen, publicly alleged last year that the organization may have misused donations. Thayne denied the allegations and offered her books up for public scrutiny.

Terry said she began investigating July 20 after receiving emailed complaints about how dogs were treated at the kennel. Terry and a representative from the Office of the State Veterinarian visited Thayne’s Surry kennel on Aug. 23.

Both Terry and Elaine Lidholm, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, which oversees the state veterinarian’s office, refused to elaborate, citing an ongoing investigation.

Terry noted that two charges against Thayne involve the care of multiple animals.

Dogs have not been removed and the kennel has not been shut down, Terry said. For now, Terry said her office is taking steps to make sure that all of the dogs are receiving proper care.

In addition to the animal abuse charges, Terry said Dogs Deserve Better did not comply with issues identified by the state veterinarian in order to operate a kennel in Virginia. Although she would not elaborate on details, Lidholm did confirm that the organization never got the state veterinarian office’s required approval to open as a private kennel.

The state veterinarian’s office would be the agency that orders any closure of the Surry facility, Terry added.

Former Dogs Deserve Better employee Deana Whitfield, who quit in May after 10 months working at the organization’s Surry kennel, said she contacted Surry’s animal control office in May. Whitfield said her primary concern was the frequency that some of the dozen or so dogs living at the house would get into occasional scuffles that resulted in injuries.

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