- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (AP) - Joyce DeBruhl, 80, knew little about the labrador-mix dog she brought back to her Hornbeam Road home earlier this month.

Her name is Babe. She’s 5 years old. And she has anxiety around children and sometimes men, causing the short-haired dog to cower.

That’s what prompted the family who previously owned Babe to return her to the Cumberland County Animal Shelter a few weeks prior.

The children scared her. She couldn’t be trusted to not run away outside without a leash.

“I know noise bothers her, but it’s quiet here,” DeBruhl said. “I’m hoping she’ll learn she’s safe here.”

Babe was one of nearly 700 animals seized from The Haven-Friends for Life animal shelter in Raeford.

The no-kill facility closed Jan. 27, a day after the N.C. Department of Agriculture denied the shelter an operator’s license, citing years-long health and code violations.

“I understand why she is this way,” DeBruhl said about Babe. The thinned labrador kicked her back paws into the thick grass in the backyard. “There may not have been enough workers there to give her attention.”

“Don’t worry, I’ll make her fat,” she said while smiling at the first rescue dog she’s ever owned.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals hosted an adoption blitz in March, seeking forever homes for nearly 700 animals from the Haven. The agency seized the cats, dogs, pigs, birds and horses from the shelter which operated without a license for more than decade.

Babe was among 12 dogs and cats returned to the county animal shelter.

Now, only two cats remain at the county shelter: Peaches and Tallie, both returned since April because of litter-training problems, said Jennifer Hutchinson-Tracy, the shelter manager.

Of the remaining 11 animals, one was given to the Fayetteville Animal Protection Society and nine were transferred back to the ASPCA to be placed in homes, shelters or animal sanctuaries.

Other reasons for pet returns at the Cumberland County Animal Shelter were pets displaying separation anxiety, fearful behavior, a landlord who had an issue with a dog’s breed and a family who couldn’t dedicate enough time to the pet, Hutchinson-Tracy said.

Aggressive or violent behavior weren’t cited as reasons for returns.

“These were commonplace reasons for returns,” Hutchinson-Tracy said. “We do expect some animals to come back because it was a spur-of-the-moment adoption event, and we deal with the same when we have events at PetSmart.”

In total, 28 animals were given up by owners from the adoption event since March, said Kelly Krause, an ASPCA spokeswoman.

“This is a relatively low figure given that more than 520 animals were adopted,” she said.

Hutchinson-Tracy said her shelter agreed to partner with the ASPCA as a return site, knowing the agency would work to find homes or a better-suited shelter to take in the animals.

So far, no animals have been euthanized since the adoption event. A dog and cat were euthanized after the seizure in January, one with severe kidney failure and the oother for cardiac issues.

“We’re committed to finding them all appropriate homes and each pet has individual needs and deserves a home that can meet those needs, so returns are appropriate in some circumstances,” Krause said. “In this particular case, we’ve been in touch with the shelters receiving returned pets to assist them in creating positive outcomes for each of these animals.”

So far, no animals from the adoption blitz were taken to county animal shelters in Robeson and Sampson counties. Calls to Hoke, Bladen and Harnett weren’t returned.

Mecklenburg County residents also adopted animals from the event with no returns to Charlotte-Mecklenburg Animal Care and Control, an ASPCA partner, said Josh Fisher, shelter manager.

Since the seizure, the shelter’s operators, Linden and Stephen Spear, face four counts of animal cruelty charges and three counts of possession of a controlled substance, related to an animal medication not authorized on the property, authorities say.

The couple also was served a misdemeanor criminal summons for an alleged violation of a solid-waste disposal ordinance. Authorities say animals and feces were found in plastic bags throughout the property.

Back at DeBruhl’s home, returning Babe hasn’t crossed the accountant’s mind despite the dog’s sometimes skiddish behavior. A few whistles finally coaxed Babe from behind a row of cardboard boxes underneath a desk.

“I’m in the market of helping dogs here, and keeping company near me,” DeBruhl said.

She laughed as her other dog, Tongue, a red nose pit bull, wagged his tail. It smacked Babe in the face, but she didn’t seem to mind between heavy pants.

“I picked her because I liked the way she looked at me,” DeBruhl said. “She looked at me as if she was trying to figure me out.”

There may be one regret DeBruhl has about Babe. The avid Chihuahua owner made a routine of bringing her dogs along with her on scooter rides before they died.

“I can’t take her because she’s about as big as I am,” DeBruhl said laughing. “Hopefully she likes it here, and knows we won’t mistreat her.”

___

Information from: The Fayetteville Observer, https://www.fayobserver.com

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