STARR — Authorities in Anderson County have found as many as 200 dogs living behind rusted fences with algae-laden drinking water at what's suspected to be a puppy mill.
Investigators have not disclosed the name of the person who owns the property and the dogs, but they say he volunteered to turn over the animals to the county Friday evening.
Maj. Garry Bryant of the Anderson County Detention Center said investigators were told about the suspected breeder by a person who recently bought a dog at a local flea market. Bryant said the dog was found to have parvovirus and was euthanized.
Officers are trying to prepare a makeshift shelter out of concern that the dogs may have diseases that would be contagious to other animals.
Bryant told the Anderson Independent-Mail that the search for the suspected mill led investigators to a secluded property in Starr that is several hundred yards from a main road.
What they found, Bryant said, were dozens and dozens of dogs, dirty and matted, “living in just deplorable conditions that no one should have to endure.”
He said there were multiple breeds and ages of dogs, “just an assortment, really.”
Among them, Anderson County Sheriff John Skipper said, was a litter of puppies just days old.
“They're just little tiny things, out there baking in the sunshine,” he said.
Interim county administrator Rusty Burns said animal-welfare organizations, including the Humane Society of the United States, are already offering their help. Burns said the suspected puppy mill could be the largest ever discovered in Anderson County.
In November 2009, authorities seized 177 malnourished dogs, one cat and one bird from the Liberty home of a former Anderson County animal control officer and his wife.
Skipper said Friday that the suspected breeder in Starr is cooperating with authorities. No charges had been filed as of Friday night, but Skipper said charges could be forthcoming once Dr. Kyle Powell, a veterinarian from Anderson County's newer shelter, can finish evaluating the dogs.