RICHMOND, Va. – The founder of a dog sanctuary at NFL star Michael Vick's former dogfighting compound said Monday that she was shocked to learn that she faces charges of animal cruelty and inadequate care of animals.
Tamira Thayne said in a telephone interview from her Dogs Deserve Better operation in Surry County that she read a newspaper report about the charges, but had neither spoken to authorities nor been served warrants.
"I know nothing about it," Thayne said. "I just got home from my honeymoon in St. Lucia. Apparently I was abusing dogs while I was gone."
Surry County Chief Animal Control Officer Tracy Terry said her office received complaints that led to an investigation, and the results prompted her to file the charges Friday. She declined to say specifically what led to the charges, but said Thayne should not be surprised.
"There's certain things I just can't disclose right now," the officer said.
A hearing is set for Sept. 25 in Surry County General District Court on the inadequate care charge. No hearing date is set on the cruelty count. Both charges are misdemeanors.
Thayne insisted she and her employees have done nothing wrong.
"We take special pains to make sure our dogs are safe and happy," she said. "They have a great life here. Vick tortured dogs to death and never once got charged with animal cruelty. Somebody needs to tell me what the hell is going on here."
Vick, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, served 18 months in prison after pleading guilty in federal court to participating in an interstate dogfighting conspiracy. The enterprise operated out of his five-bedroom home and 15-acre property in rural Surry County, which he sold to a developer after he was charged. Thayne's organization bought the former Bad Newz Kennels property last year for about $600,000 and turned it into a sanctuary for dogs that have been chained and penned.
Terry said Dogs Deserve Better has been operating without state approval.
"The state veterinarian told her in January they were not going to approve her until she rectified some things," Terry said.
Thayne said she thought she was in good graces with the government.
"They told us to do certain things and we did them, and I haven't heard from them," she said. "To my knowledge, we've done everything they asked us to do."
Thayne said her facility currently is caring for nine dogs, including her personal pet. She said they all live in the house, not out back where Vick and his associates kept dogs penned and chained and put them through brutal test fights. According to court papers in the cases of Vick and his codefendants, Vick bankrolled the operation and joined others in killing some dogs that did not perform well in the tests.
Since his release from prison in 2009, Vick has worked with the Humane Society of the United States to stop organized animal fighting.
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