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CALDWELL COUNTY, N.C --Animalcontrol workersand sheriff'sdeputies seized276 dogs from substandard conditions in a home they called a puppy mill in the town of Hudson.

It is absolutely horrific. It s a clandestine operation, basically animal trafficking, said Caleb Scott, a Humane Society of the United Statesworker who spent all day Thursday helping animal control workers and sheriff's deputies.

Investigators said that puppy mill was at a home that doubled as Mason Creek Kennels in Hudson.

Owner William Bill Allen, who is confined to a wheelchair, watched the seizure from his driveway. He told a Raleigh TV station his bad health and a bad worker had made his job more difficult, but hesaid staff cleans daily. We made a big improvement, like they asked us to, he said.

To see the conditions they ve been living in is absolutely heartbreaking, said Kim Alboum, Humane Society NC State Director.

What we re finding is animals with mattes, infected ears, nails grown into their pads... she added.

Two dogs were found dead, decomposing in their cages. Neighbors andeveryone involved in theseizurenoted the stench of feces and urine. Investigators found makeshift veterinary tools, and the Humane Society documented rows of cages filled with newborn puppies.

This is a puppy mill operation where dogs are bred just for greed. It s not about their health and welfare, Alboum said.

The dogs were being sold online.

Volunteers with the Humane Societyspent all dayThursday examining, photographing, documenting, and eventually moving thedogsinto fresh cages. By 5:30 p.m., they'd moved them all into a temporary shelter at the Caldwell County fairground. They'll likely stay there for several days.

The process of caring for them could cost about $2,000 dollars per day, but a grant from Maddie's Fund, a division of PetSmart Charities, helps pay forthe necessary crates, food, and other supplies.

Caldwell County is also coordinating donations. Contact Caldwell Humane Society, POBox 1991, Lenoir, NC28645, or call Donna West at 828-292-2925, or email caldwell4pets@gmail.com.

Vets will conduct more thorough exams on the animals Friday, and help determine which dogs are adoptable immediately. If Allen surrenders the animals to the county, they'll be distributed nearby shelters and animal rescue groups to facilitate adoptions. If Allen refuses to surrender the dogs, Caldwell County Animal Control Director Greg Greene said the county will pursue the seizure in court.

Allen faces charges forhaving unsanitary conditions and failing to give veterinary care. However, there are no laws or regulations specific to puppy mills, a fact the Humane Society says contributes to situations like this one.

This is precisely why North Carolina desperate needs to pass legislation regulating these breeders, Kim Alboum said. Large-scale breeders in our state currently face no regulations or routine inspections. These law laws have made North Carolina a safe-haven for inhumane puppy mills like this one.

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