The Kannapolis woman charged with running a puppy mill with almost 130 animals was convicted on all counts in court this week.
Patricia Yates of 4048 Hilton Lake road in Kannapolis was convicted of all 12 misdemeanor charges of cruelty to animals Wednesday, June 14. Her sentence also included an order for physiological evaluation, two years of supervised probation, a ban on owning animals for two years, a 12-day jail sentence starting Wednesday and an order to pay the Humane Society of the United States more than $30,000 in restitution.
According to the Cabarrus County Clerk of Court, Yates appealed the conviction the same day. Her case will now go to Superior Court; her next appearance has not been set.
The case originated in September 2016 when the Humane Society, in partnership with the Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office, rescued nearly 130 animals from her property. Officers found about 105 dogs, 20 cats and three goats. All animals were crammed in unsafe and unsanitary conditions, and many had untreated medical issues, were pregnant and in urgent need to veterinary care.
An anonymous tip came into local law enforcement, sparking an investigation into Yates' property. The Cabarrus County District Attorney's Office and the sheriff's office determined a need for further action, and deputies obtained a warrant.
“Animal cruelty comes with serious consequence,” Lt. David Taylor with the sheriff's office said in a release. “Our No. 1 priority is the protection and safety of the animals, including their environment. In Cabarrus County, we’re investigating claims and prosecuting to the fullest extent of the law. However, the investigation is just the beginning of the story. We are fortunate to have the support of The HSUS as we move forward with the response.”
The Humane Society of the United States assisted the two law enforcement agencies in removing the dozens upon dozens of animals to rescue vehicles, joined by the Cabarrus Animal Hospital for on-site veterinary care. The team moved the dogs and cats to a temporary emergency animal shelter. Animal rescue volunteers and responders from Red Rover helped care for the dogs and cats, and Banfield provided medical supplies.
Deputies transported the goats to a safe facility for large animals.
The animals festered in their own filth, suffering from an apparent lack of medical care. Erica Geppi, North Carolina State Director for the Humane Society, said many of them had been overbred, forced to have litter after litter until they could no longer produce and therefore had no more value.
"You never know exactly what you're going to walk into, but the first thing that hits you is the smell and the barking and then just the sheer volume of dogs and cats that were on the property," she said. "But then walking in, seeing inside the enclosure, the urine, the feces they were having to sit in all day their entire lives, lots of pregnant dogs, very dirty water bowls, inadequate levels of food, just overall squalor—standing there all day but even standing there for a few minutes just gets to you. Physically and emotionally it's very heartbreaking to see."
A second chance
Many of the animals have since been adopted, some to people in the Cabarrus County community. Recovery is slow, but with a lot of love, time and patience, the new families are moving forward.
“When you rescue a puppy, especially from a puppy mill, you can’t just put them on the ground and have them acting a dog,” Brenda Tortoreo, who rescued a dog, B.B., from the Kannapolis puppy mill, said. “The backyard, it took maybe a month, five to six weeks, where she would go in the grass, and she would follow the other dogs. She would step in the grass a bit and jump back. But now she plays. She runs. She loves the grass.”
In some ways B.B. will never be like a typical dog, Tortoreo said, but never for a second does she regret the decision to bring her into the family.
“She’s doing great now, but there are still obstacles that we have to overcome,” she said. “We’re taking baby steps. When they rescue a puppy mill dog, don’t expect them to act like a dog. You’ve got to put a lot of love and a lot of time into it. It’s 100 percent worth it. I would do it again and again. You’re saving a life—absolutely worth it.”