Case Snapshot
Case ID: 4377
Classification: Hoarding, Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Wednesday, Apr 13, 2005

County: Lee

Disposition: Convicted

Defendants/Suspects:
» Robert Woodley
» Barbara Woodley

Case Updates: 5 update(s) available

About 200 dogs were removed April 13 from the Lee County home of a couple who were sentenced last month to five years probation for animal cruelty.

Veterinarians found the dogs suffered from blindness and skin scalding caused by ammonia, internal parasites and dental decay.

Volunteers including veterinarians and animal control workers marked the dogs with plastic collars, loaded them onto animal control vans from Wake and Lee counties and took them to a warehouse in downtown Sanford. There, the puppies and adult dogs joined 250 already seized from the property under an earlier court order.

The volunteers were allied with the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a Petaluma, Calif.-based animal-rights organization that sued Robert and Barbara Woodley.

In March, District Court Judge Albert A. Corbett sentenced the Woodleys to five years of probation. During that time, they may not keep animals at their home. He also sentenced them to two 45-day periods in jail each, suspended for five years.

In December, District Court Judge Resson Faircloth allowed veterinarians to examine the dogs and take them for treatment if needed.

The Woodleys are appealing the conviction, but Corbett ordered the Animal Legal Defense Fund to care for the dogs until the appeals process is finished.

"There's no animal here that's not threatened with serious health problems," said Bruce Wagman, litigation director for the animal-rights group.

Barbara Woodley also was found guilty earlier this year of making a death threat against a veterinarian and technician, who were on the Woodleys' property to care for the dogs. Her attorneys have appealed.


Case Updates

The Woodley's criminal and civil convictions were affirmed during their appeal.

Appeal by defendants-appellants from injunction and order entered 12 April 2005 by Judge Albert A. Corbett, Jr. in Lee County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 19 October 2006.

Kilpatrick Stockton LLP, by Adam H. Charnes and James J. Hefferan, Jr., for the plaintiff-appellee.

Staton, Doster, Post & Silverman, by Norman C. Post, Jr., for the defendant-appellant.

ELMORE, Judge.

Barbara and Robert Woodley (defendants) appeal from an injunction forfeiting all rights in the animals possessed by defendants and the removal of the animals from defendants' control, and an order granting temporary custody of the animals to the Animal Legal Defense Fund (plaintiff), both of which were entered 12 April 2005 by Judge Albert A. Corbett, Jr. After careful review of the record, we find defendants' contentions on appeal to be without merit; we therefore affirm the trial court's order and injunction.

On 23 December 2004, plaintiff filed a complaint against defendants seeking preliminary and permanent injunctions under North Carolina's Civil Remedy for Protection of Animals statute (Section 19A). N.C. Gen. Stat. 19A-1 et seq. (2005). Plaintiff alleged that defendants had abused and neglected a large number of dogs (as well as some birds) in their possession. Defendants answered the complaint on 7 January 2005.

On 13 January 2005, after the lower court reviewed the evidence, held two hearings, and visited defendants' property, Judge Resson O. Faircloth entered a preliminary injunction prohibiting defendants from any further violation of the statute, requiring defendants to properly maintain those parts of their property in which the animals were kept, and granting plaintiff access to defendants' property for the purpose of giving care to the animals.

On 12 April 2005, following a trial, Judge Corbett entered a permanent injunction and temporary custody order. Defendants, who were also charged and convicted criminally (See footnote 1) , filed notice of appeal on 11 May 2005. For the reasons stated below, the injunction and order of the trial court is affirmed.

Defendants first contend that the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to hear the matter because plaintiff's complaint was not verified as required by N.C. Gen. Stat. 19A-3. However, as plaintiff points out in its brief, 19A-3 applies onlyto preliminary injunctions. In fact, the section is titled "Preliminary injunction," and no mention is made of permanent injunctions throughout the section. N.C. Gen. Stat. 19A-3 (2005). Moreover, 19A-4, titled "Permanent injunction," makes no mention of verified complaints; according to that section, the trial court is bound by N.C. Gen. Stat. 1A-1, Rule 65. N.C. Gen. Stat. 19A-4 (2005). Rule 65 is also devoid of any mention of a verified complaint requirement; indeed, this Court has held that verification of complaint is not a condition for issuance of an injunction under Rule 65. N.C. Gen. Stat. 1A-1, Rule 65 (2005); Moore v. Wykle, 107 N.C. App. 120, 139, 419 S.E.2d 164, 176 (1992), cert. denied, 332 N.C. 666, 424 S.E.2d 405 (1992). Because defendants gave notice of appeal only for the permanent injunction entered 12 April 2005, and not the preliminary injunction entered 13 January 2005, the issue of whether it was error for the trial court to issue the preliminary injunction is not before this Court. Defendants' first assignment of error is without merit.

Defendants also argue that N.C. Gen. Stat. 19A-1 is unconstitutional in that it purports to grant standing to persons who have suffered no injury. To support their contention, defendants rely on Article IV, Section 13 of the North Carolina Constitution, which states, "There shall be in this State but one form of action for the enforcement or protection of private rights or the redress of private wrongs, which shall be denominated a civil action . . . ." N.C. Const. art. IV, 13. This reliance, however, is misplaced. While defendants contend that "thisprovision places a constitutional limit on standing in civil actions to those individuals who have suffered some individualized and concrete harm," they rely almost entirely on federal authority. However, as defendants themselves note, "North Carolina courts are not constrained by the 'case or controversy' requirement of Article 3 of the United States Constitution." See Neuse River Found., Inc. v. Smithfield Foods, Inc., 155 N.C. App. 110, 114, 574 S.E.2d 48, 52 (2002), disc. review denied, 356 N.C. 675, 577 S.E.2d 628 (2003).

Moreover, defendants, in maintaining that our Constitution restricts our legislature's ability to give standing by statute, simply misinterpret the language of the Constitution. In actuality, "[t]his section abolished the distinction between actions at law and suits in equity, leaving such rights and remedies to be enforced in the one court, which theretofore had administered simply legal rights." Reynolds v. Reynolds, 208 N.C. 578, 624, 182 S.E. 341, 369 (1935).

It is telling that our Supreme Court recently determined that our courts have subject matter jurisdiction of suits brought under Section 19A by organizations such as plaintiff. See Justice for Animals, Inc. v. Lenoir Cty. SPCA, Inc., 168 N.C. App. 298, 304, 607 S.E.2d 317, 321 (2005) ("The trial court has subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. 19A-2 over plaintiff's claim to the extent it seeks an injunction against defendant by alleging the cruel treatment of animals, as defined in N.C. Gen. Stat. 19A-1.").

Moreover, as defendants themselves note, this Court has recently held that Section 19A "express[es] the GeneralAssembly's intent that the broadest category of persons or organizations be deemed '[a] real party in interest' when contesting cruelty to animals." Justice for Animals, Inc. v. Robeson County, 164 N.C. App. 366, 371, 595 S.E.2d 773, 776-77 (2004). Because we hold that Article IV, Section 13 of the North Carolina Constitution merely "abolished the distinction between actions at law and suits in equity," Reynolds, 208 N.C. at 624, 182 S.E. at 369, rather than placing limitations on the legislature's ability to create actions by statute, defendants' contention is without merit.

Defendants' remaining assignments of error were not argued in their brief. "Assignments of error not set out in the appellant's brief, or in support of which no reason or argument is stated or authority cited, will be taken as abandoned." State v. McNeill, 360 N.C. 231, 241, 624 S.E.2d 329, 336 (2006) (quoting N.C.R. App. P. 28(b)(6) and citing State v. Augustine, 359 N.C. 709, 731 n.1, 616 S.E.2d 515, 531 n.1 (2005)). Accordingly, we will not review defendants' unargued assignments of error. Having found no meritorious assignments of error, the judgment of the trial court is Affirmed.

Chief Judge MARTIN and Judge JACKSON concur.

Footnote: 1
The civil and criminal trials were joined; defendants' appeal of their guilty verdicts is presently pending in the Superior Court.
Source: North Carolina Judicial Branch Court of Appeals - Feb 6, 2007
Update posted on Feb 6, 2007 - 12:23PM 
Barbara Woodley can no longer visit the more than 300 dogs she once kept on her property, according to a January 17, 2006 ruling by a district court judge. Judge Andy Corbett granted a request from Animal Legal Defense Fund attorneys to strip Woodley of her visitation rights with dogs that were removed from her property by Corbett's order in March 2005 and placed in the custody of the ALDF at a shelter in downtown Sanford.

The dogs were initially removed from Woodley's property after ALDF attorneys argued that she was keeping them in cruel conditions - sitting for days in cramped quarters, suffering from various illnesses and sitting in piles of their own feces. At the same, Woodley, 65, was found guilty of eight counts of animal cruelty. Both rulings - the judge's ruling that she was guilty of animal cruelty in a criminal case and his order for removal of the dogs in a parallel civil case - have been appealed by Woodley's attorneys, although court dates haven't been set.

When the dogs were removed, Woodley was granted visitation rights, but ALDF attorney Bruce Wagman said Woodley had in the past four months become "increasingly harassing and abusive to both ALDF volunteers and the dogs" during her visits with the animals. Wagman cited numerous threats to volunteers, assault charges against Woodley lodged on Dec. 21 and Dec. 26, 2005, and eyewitness descriptions of Woodley "picking up dogs by a single back leg, picking up dogs by their collars and kicking them."
Wagman said Corbett's order bars Woodley from returning to the shelter without permission from the judge, as well as a police escort.

"We're very happy that she's no longer allowed to come in and abuse the dogs and the volunteers who are caring for the dogs," Wagman said. "Her behavior was really impairing their ability to do that." Woodley's attorneys, George Whitaker and Norman "Chip" Post, were unavailable for comment.
Source: The Sanford Herald - January 23, 2006
Update posted on Jan 23, 2006 - 5:46PM 
Escalating tensions between the owners of more than 300 dogs seized from their home and the animals' caretakers have resulted in some of the dogs not being sterilized for medical problems, a veterinarian says.

"We're just sitting here handcuffed," said Kevin Monce, a Cary vet with Petsound Animal Hospital who is caring for Michael Jordan, a dachsund with testicular cancer, and a Boston terrier named Mitzi who had seven of 10 mammary glands removed because they had tumors.

They're among more than a dozen of the dogs that need to be sterilized because of various medical ailments. So far, though, owners Barbara and Robert Woodley won't give permission for the surgeries, meaning the dogs must wait for a judicial order.

"These decisions should be left to veterinarians," said Stephen Wells, director of the animal law program at the Animal Legal Defense Fund, a California nonprofit agency that has temporary custody of the animals. "Playing legal games with dogs lives is just outrageous."

In a Lee County courtroom Tuesday, the agency will not only seek the surgeries but also try to terminate the visitation rights of Barbara Woodley. The group contends she has harassed, cursed at and chased volunteers at the downtown Sanford warehouse where some dogs are housed.

Woodley's attorney, in turn, says one of the volunteers called his client the devil and another vulgar name.

In April, more than 300 dogs were seized from kennels in and around the Woodleys' home. The couple were convicted of animal cruelty in Lee County criminal court. The Animal Legal Defense Fund won temporary custody of the animals through a civil lawsuit.

Most of the dogs have been sent to foster homes across the state. Some are in veterinary hospitals receiving medical care. Thirty-two remain at a downtown warehouse in Sanford, about 40 miles south of Raleigh.

The Woodleys have appealed both court cases. Meanwhile, caretakers cannot sterilize the dogs without the consent of a judge.

In the case of Mitzi, Monce wants to remove her ovaries and uterus to keep the tumors from returning, but he can't.

The Woodleys, he said, "are doing everything they can possibly do to protect these dogs' breeding status."

And the solution to Michael Jordan's cancer is castration, Monce said. And each day that the dog goes without surgery, the tumor grows larger.

Another dozen dogs, being cared for by vets across the state, have ailments ranging from a hernia to an inflamed prostate gland, according to a brief filed by the defense funds attorneys.

All need surgeries that would result in sterilization, the motion says.

Defense fund lawyers wrote to the Woodleys' attorneys Aug. 30, asking them to sign off on a judicial order giving permission for the surgeries. So far, they have received no answer.

George H. Whitaker, the Woodleys' Sanford attorney, said he doesn't believe all the vets' recommendations. He said vets are trumping up medical ailments to surreptitiously spay and neuter dogs.

"I don't trust them," Whitaker said.

In addition, he said only a judge can give permission for sterilization surgeries and then only after a hearing. He said that's why he hasn't responded to the Defense Fund's request.
Source: The Herald Sun - Sept 8, 2005
Update posted on Sep 8, 2005 - 7:52AM 
The dogs are now under the care of veterinarians and volunteers working with Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), the agency which acted as plaintiff in the civil lawsuit against Barbara and Robert Woodley, which has since gained national attention. ALDF agents will be responsible for each of the dogs taken from the Woodleys' property on Westover Drive in the Tramway section of Sanford, until the couple has completely appealed their case, which includes criminal animal abuse charges. None of the animals can be euthanized, spayed, neutered or placed with foster families until the appeals process is exhausted.

George Whitaker, one of the attorneys representing the Woodleys, said the court gave his client clearly defined visitation rights, which she has chosen to exercise. On her first visit to the old warehouse, which has been converted for use to shelter the dogs, Whitaker said he and Barbara Woodley were confronted by ALDF volunteer Melanie Barnes.

Whitaker said Barnes told a police officer who arrived at the scene that Woodley had been, "causing problems," and had parked her car in a manner blocking another person's exit and then refused to let the visitor leave. Whitaker said an unidentified male ALDF volunteer refuted Barnes allegations to the officer at that time, and Woodley was allowed access to the dogs without further incident.

When he and Woodley returned the next day, a Saturday, he said they experienced no problems with any of the volunteers and his client was able to spend time with her dogs.

When they went back on the following Monday, however, Whitaker said Barnes was verbally harassing Woodley, "loud enough for her to hear it from a good distance away," Whitaker said.


The next day, Whitaker said Woodley made her standard request to have a police officer present during her visit to the dogs. When she got there, Whitaker said the doors were locked, and that Barnes opened the door to tell them they could not come in without a court order and a police officer present.

"She asked us to leave and we refused. I showed her we have a court order allowing us to be there," Whitaker said, explaining Barnes then allowed them into the building.

"As Mrs. Woodley went into the first pen, Melanie Barnes was right up on her, a quarter of an inch away from her towering over Barbara's back. I asked her to give the lady some room," Whitaker said.

"When Barbara moved to the next pen, there was Melanie Barnes again a quarter of an inch away from her," Whitaker said, noting he asked Woodley to remain inside the pen while he stepped outside to meet a police officer summoned before they arrived. The attorney said he gave the officer a copy of the court's orders and asked if the instructions could be made clear to Barnes.

When the officer asked Barnes if she understood Woodley and her attorney have a right to visit the animals during prescribed hours "and should be left alone," Whitaker said Barnes told the officer she was acting on the direct orders of Veterinarian Laureen Bartfield.

"After that, she continued to follow Mrs. Woodley around the place, but not as closely," Whitaker said.

Barnes has not responded to repeated efforts to contact her through the local ALDF shelter, or ALDF spokesman and attorney Bruce Wagman, who made it clear he does not represent Barnes.

After that visit, Whitaker said ALDF volunteers, "have all been very courteous and nice." The attorney said one of the volunteers made a point to speak with Woodley, "and apologized for Barnes' actions," during the previous visits.

Wagman said the Woodley case has received national attention due to the number of animals involved, and because Woodley was identified as an animal "hoarder," which is often relevant in animal abuse and neglect cases.

"It is a big issue in cases across the country," Wagman said Tuesday, adding the case got plenty of press because the judge ordered all animals removed from the Woodley's property.

Wagman said the Sanford rescue center, "can't ever have enough volunteers," explaining volunteers have more time to play with and socialize the dogs, if they have plenty of people to share the load of feeding, cleaning and caring for the animals.

"The quicker we can clean up the quicker we can get to socialization, which these dogs have been deprived of their entire lives - and that's what they need most," Wagman said.

Anyone who would like to volunteer to help care for the dogs, or make material or financial contributions, can call 718-0002 for more information.
Source: The Sanford Herald - May 13, 2005
Update posted on May 13, 2005 - 7:04PM 
The last of nearly 300 dogs were taken last week from the property of Robert and Barbara Woodley, both 68, of Sanford. A Lee County District Court judge declared the animals mistreated and gave temporary custody to a nonprofit group with headquarters in Petaluma, Calif.

But the dogs are in legal limbo. Most are living in a downtown Sanford warehouse, unable to settle into permanent homes until the Woodleys exhaust their appeals in civil and criminal cases.

The dogs seized from the Woodley residence in Sanford cannot be adopted until their court cases are complete. For now, they can be fostered only by volunteers who have been working regularly to care for them. The sickest cannot be euthanized. None can be spayed or neutered.
Source: News-Observer - April 21. 2005
Update posted on Apr 21, 2005 - 8:50AM 

References

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