- Associated Press - Friday, February 19, 2016

RAEFORD, N.C. (AP) - The couple charged with animal cruelty in connection with the largest seizure of companion animals in the ASPCA’s history have two court dates next month.

The Fayetteville Observer reports (https://bit.ly/1KZxwks) a hearing scheduled for March 2 for Stephen and Linden Spear is a continuation of their earlier hearing on four counts of animal cruelty. The Spears didn’t enter a plea at the earlier hearing.

The Spears owned The Haven-Friends for Life, an unlicensed shelter in Hoke County where about 700 animals were seized in January. The Haven’s certification from the state Department of Agriculture expired in June 2005.

A hearing also is scheduled for March 15 on a misdemeanor criminal summons charging them with a violation of a solid waste disposal ordinance. Authorities say animals and feces were found in plastic bags.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals doesn’t have full custody of the animals although the agency is charged with their care. The ASPCA’s vice president of field investigations and response, Tim Rickey, said the group is in the process of petitioning for full ownership.

The ASPCA can get ownership either through a judge’s order or if the Spears surrender animals, Rickey said.

“Our goal is to place them in responsible shelters that can provide care and medical treatment,” Rickey said. “We don’t focus on kill or no-kill. We want to make sure the animals are rehabilitated and put into loving homes.”

The Spears’ attorney, James Van Camp, said he’s been in talks with the ASPCA’s lawyer about the animals’ final placements.

“The Spears are scared the animals are going to be transferred to shelters that do kill animals,” said Van Camp, who adopted four dogs from The Haven over the years. “We’re trying to figure out what to do with the animals now.”

Rickey said the cost of caring for the animals could top $1 million.

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


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