Catawba County Animal Services found more than 100 dead dogs Tuesday at the home of a beagle trainer and breeder in Maiden.
The county's animal services personnel responded to 4160 H.E. Propst Road in Maiden after receiving a call reporting dead dogs on the property. Catawba County Animal Services manager Jay Blatche said they discovered 100 beagle carcasses in different states of decomposition around the residence.
Bill Hewitt, 68, admitted there were dead dogs on his property, but he said the number is drastically lower than what animal control officers reported. He reported from five to 10 dead animals on the property.
Hewitt, who has been breeding dogs for 50 years, said a three-month period of declining health prevented him from taking care of the animals.
"This just slipped by me," he said.
Blatche said dogs in varying states of sickness were housed in kennels, and they had no food or water. Sixteen dogs taken from the property are at the county's animal shelter, and three dogs are receiving treatment at a veterinarian's office.
Five of those dogs, Hewitt said, are his. The remaining animals belong to people who left their pets at the Hewitt residence for training.
Officials don't know what caused the dogs' deaths, whether it was from malnutrition or illness.
"That's what's under investigation," Blatche said.
Hewitt told The O-N-E that he paid someone $60 a week to care for the animals while he was ill. He said he bought more than 100 pounds of food a week to feed the animals.
Hewitt's helper, however, apparently failed to fulfill his obligations.
Blatche said it's hard to tell how long the sick and dead animals were on Hewitt's property. Officials found bones and other animal parts at Hewitt's residence, which could mean the existence of even more carcasses.
"There's evidence that this has been going on for quite some time," Blatche said.
No charges have been brought against Hewitt. Blatche said animal control officers will compile an incident report and present that information to the District Attorney's Office for prosecutors to determine if charges are warranted.
"They're making a big deal of this," Hewitt said. "This isn't a big deal."
Tuesday's visit to Hewitt's residence wasn't the first for Catawba County Animal Services. Blatche said animal services was called to the residence about a year ago for reports of unsanitary conditions. Hewitt was given a warning and cleaned up the property.
"I could give you a list of over 100 people to tell you I wouldn't harm a dog," Hewitt said.
Catawba County Animal Services' seizure made Hewitt realize his beagle breeding was beyond his control, given his age and health. He said he'll tear down his kennels and stop breeding animals.
"I gave it up today," Hewitt said. "I'm quitting."