Dog rescuer's background comes into question after fire - NBC12.com - Richmond, VA News

Dog rescuer's background comes into question after fire

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GOOCHLAND, VA (WWBT) -

Viewers contacted NBC12 after a story out of Goochland created a lot of response. Annette Thompson cares for more than 70 dogs on her property. After her house caught fire Tuesday, donations poured in.

"Dog food, money," said Thompson.

However, in 2011, Thompson was found guilty of six counts of inadequate animal care. Now, concerns are being raised about whether she should continue caring for about 75 dogs.

Thompson says she runs a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization called the Pet Rescue Foundation.

Heidi Meinzer, an attorney who specializes in animal law, says anyone who has animal convictions in Virginia cannot run a rescue, according to Virginia Code Section 3.2-6549, sections B and C.

"Once you are convicted of cruelty or neglect, the lack of adequate care in Virginia, at that point you cannot operate as a rescue," said Meinzer.

Dr. Dan Kovich, a representative from the Virginia Office of Veterinary Services,  says they interpret a conviction of inadequate animal care to be the same as neglect. That could ultimately translate to Thompson's non-profit organization not being allowed to operate in Virginia.

Meinzer worked the case against Thompson in 2011. She says other animal organizations often took in dogs from Thompson's property, and adopted them out. Mienzer maintains the animals were being mistreated.

"Animals were having significant medical costs, that the rescues had to absorb because the animals weren't being cared for the way they should have been," continued Meinzer.

Sue Bell, executive director of the Homeward Trails Animal Rescue says her organization took in at least 700 dogs from Thompson's property over the last several years. Bell says most of them were in poor condition, and five had to be euthanized.

Thompson says the past charges were contrived. "It was a witch hunt," defended Thompson. "Manipulated evidence."

Thompson says she uses her own money from her retirement check to care for the animals. Thompson says her animals do get pest medications and other medical treatments.

"I do as much as I can possibly do," continued Thompson.

NBC12 noticed several dirty cages on Thompson's property. Thompson says she hasn't had a chance to clean them since the fire, several days ago. She also says that the less expensive dog food she mixes with other brands causes the animals to defecate more often.

Thompson is licensed by Goochland County to house up to a hundred dogs, not under an organization, according to the county treasurer.

Thompson maintains that her animals are classified as being under her organization.

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