‘Dogs literally jumped into our arms’: Authorities share details after 29 dogs removed from Bedford County home, man charged with 10 counts of animal neglect

UPDATE 2:22 p.m. (1/26/22): A representative of the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office provided more information on Wednesday afternoon about the nearly 30 dogs that were seized from a Goodview home the day before and their owner, who was charged with 10 counts of animal neglect.

After receiving an anonymous tip from Crime Stoppers, Bedford County Sgt. Allison Key says she and two other officers visited the home of Thomas Duggins in Goodview on Tuesday, Jan. 25.

Key says they had seen several dogs outside that raised concerns due to how skinny they were, but when the deputies reached the house, they also began to smell urine and feces.

Then, when Duggins opened the door, Key says the wave of the ammonia hit the officers in the face, taking their breath, burning their eyes and noses, and forcing them to come out for air.

After seeing the living arrangements and condition of the dogs inside the home, Key says they realized they were dealing with an animal cruelty case.

According to Key, most of the animals were in crates — many of which did not have water, but were filled with urine and feces.

“We found a mama dog and three puppies inside of a bedroom, and the mama dog…every bone in her body was showing, to the point where I was very concerned of how she was able to nurse her puppies,” said Key.

The sergeant described Duggins as cooperative over the course of the investigation, saying he allowed the deputies to come inside the residence, showed them every dog on the property, and told them he owned all of the animals after acquiring them from various people and places in Bedford County and elsewhere.

“I think Mr. Duggins, at first, probably did have a good heart and good intentions, and things just got really out of control for Mr. Duggins,” said Key.

Key says Duggins told them he did feed and water the dogs every day and that he didn’t see any problems with the dogs — except for one who was receiving treatment from a vet for a leg injury.

According to Key, all animals found on the site — including 26 dogs and three puppies — were removed from the residence as quickly as possible due to concerns about the ammonia levels inside. Even though it took multiple trips to bring all the dogs to the Riverside Veterinary Clinic and to the Bedford County Animal Shelter, the dogs were left in pens outside the home while they waited so they could get some fresh air.

The sergeant says she has been in a lot of houses in her 18 years as a police officer, but she has never encountered a situation with so much ammonia present.

Most of the animals that were seized had a minimal amount of body fat, so their bones were showing through their fur, but there were a few that had reached a healthier weight, Key says.

“Most of the dogs that were in the kennel were pawing at the door, trying to get out. Once we opened the door, the dogs literally jumped into our arms. There was not a dog there that put up a fight,” Key described to WFXR News. “It was like they were looking you in the eye, saying ‘please help.’ They all rushed to the door, I had several of the dogs jump in my truck. I had a hound dog that we took that was actually crying. Tears were coming out of the dog’s eyes, and I don’t know if that was from ammonia or, you know, he was happy.”

According to Key, the mama dog was protective of her pups, but once Key got down, the mama dog jumped into her arms, licking her face as Key carried all four dogs out of the house.

Even though these dogs were in a bad situation, Key says she believes it will turn into a great situation based on the amount of support shown for these dogs from Bedford County community members, as well as people beyond the county border.

Animal cruelty charges have reportedly been brought against Duggins, but based on the results of the ongoing investigation by the sheriff’s office, with the help of Dr. Ryan from the Riverside Veterinary Clinic, more charges may be filed.

Key says the charges in animal cruelty situations like this would be a Class 1 misdemeanor charge per dog, which means Duggins could face jail time if convicted.

Dr. Ryan currently has 15 dogs at her veterinary office — including the dog with the injured leg, a dog with breathing problems, and the mama dog and three puppies — while the remaining 14 dogs are being housed at the Bedford County Animal Shelter. Dr. Ryan will see and treat all 29 dogs from this large case, but the shelter staff is also working hard to give the dogs the amount of food and care they need to recover.

This news comes just two days after the Friends of Bedford County Animal Shelter alerted the community that the shelter was at full capacity and needed help making space.

Key says the shelter is often at capacity due to the size of the county and the number of animals brought in by animal control, but Dr. Ryan often helps board animals for court cases and Friends of Bedford County Animal Shelter helps raise money and find homes or rescues to take in the animals.

While a number of people have already reached out to inquire about adopting or fostering the dogs that were seized on Tuesday, Key says they will not be available until they are cleared by the vet and the court. Based on the judge’s decision at trial, the dogs could either be released to the shelter or returned to Duggins.

After Key’s news conference on Wednesday, Jan. 26, Friends of Bedford County Animal Shelter posted the following announcement on Facebook:

We have the best news in the world! All dogs currently available for adoption at Bedford County Animal Shelter have either been placed with a rescue, or adopted! This is a huge deal with all of the kennels currently being tied up with court case animals. We cannot say enough how grateful we are for everyone who stepped up to help the shelter! We would love to give shout outs to Angels of Assisi, Lynchburg Humane Society, Bedford Humane Society, and Franklin County Humane Society (Planned Pethood) for stepping up. All shelters and rescues right now are filled to the brim and struggling to stay afloat. It says so much about this community that so many have been willing to step in when they didn’t have to. You all are the best! As a personal shout out we have to mention the Friends of Bedford County Animal Shelter director, our fearless leader, Stacy Epperson. She has been working nonstop and losing sleep over these animals. Today is proof that hard work pays off. On behalf of your volunteers and all of the shelter pets, thank you!

We are so happy for all of the former shelter dogs, but now we need to turn our attention to keeping the future shelter animals safe. There are currently 44 court case dogs (29 from yesterday, the rest from other situations) under the care of Bedford County Animal Shelter. This is a huge number of dogs that cannot be moved to rescue or available for adoption until cleared by the courts or signed over by their owners. The most helpful thing that anyone could do for the shelter right now is to not turn in your animals! That is the only way space can be guaranteed. If you are able, please consider keeping your animal for a few more weeks until there is more room, or try to rehome your animal to someone you know.

As of this writing, a total of 84 people have donated $3,710 to Friends of Bedford County Animal Shelter to support the costs of care for the 26 seized dogs, as well as other Bedford County shelter animals.

If you would like to contribute to the fundraiser, follow this link.

UPDATE 12:06 p.m. (1/26/22): After a man was arrested and more than two dozen dogs were seized from a Goodview home Tuesday afternoon amid an investigation into animal neglect, the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office is set to discuss the incident with community members.

UPDATE 7:39 a.m. (1/26/22): Dozens of people have donated more than $2,300 to Friends of Bedford County Animal Shelter, Inc. after the nonprofit helped authorities with an animal hoarding investigation, which led to the seizure of more than two dozen dogs from a Goodview home Tuesday afternoon.

This news comes after the organization issued a “Code Red” emergency on Monday, Jan. 24, saying that the shelter was already over capacity and in desperate need of assistance from rescue organizations, fosters, and adopters.

As you have seen, the shelter is at full capacity already and we are busy working with local rescues and potential adopters to place animals. Please be patient with our volunteers! We greatly appreciate all of the messages, calls and emails with offers to foster and adopt, we are working on getting back to everyone. It will be awhile before the dogs from today’s case are ready for adoption. We will post them on the page as they become available, and some of them will be going to rescues. Thank you to all rescues able and willing to help right now! We know everyone in the rescue world is overwhelmed at the moment, the work just never ends.

Statement posted on Facebook on Jan. 25, 2022 by Friends of Bedford County Animal Shelter, Inc.

As of this writing, a total of 54 people have donated $2,395 to Friends of Bedford County Animal Shelter to support the costs of care for the 26 seized dogs, as well as other Bedford County shelter animals.

If you would like to contribute to the fundraiser, follow this link.

UPDATE 5:50 p.m.: The Friends of the Bedford County Animal Shelter has released a statement to WFXR News about the situation surrounding the animals that were seized Tuesday afternoon.

“At this point, the animals are still in the care of Riverside Veterinary Hospital. We won’t know more until they they [sic] are examined and deemed healthy enough to be adopted.”

UPDATE 5:40 p.m.: Law enforcement officials tell WFXR News that Thomas Duggins was released on bond from the Bedford Adult Detention Center earlier Tuesday afternoon.

UPDATE 4:55 p.m.: The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that Thomas Duggins, 71, was the man arrested on Tuesday amid an animal abuse/hoarding case that resulted in the seizure of 26 dogs at a Goodview home.

Duggins is being charged with 10 counts of animal neglect, but authorities say they may seek additional charges amid this ongoing investigation.

“This large-scale rescue could not have been possible without the assistance of Dr. Ryan at the Riverside Veterinary Clinic and the “Friends of Bedford County Animal Shelter.” This is just the beginning for these rescued animals, and they will require additional care and treatment, so if anyone in the public would like to help, Friends of Bedford County Animal Shelter” are a nonprofit and accept donations which would be put to good use helping these animals.”

Bedford County Sheriff Mike Miller

UPDATE 4 p.m.: WFXR News has a crew on the scene at a home in Bedford County where over two dozen animals were seized Tuesday afternoon.

Authorities with the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office tell WFXR News that they received a call on Tuesday, Jan. 25 from Crime Stoppers and the local humane society about possible hoarding and animal abuse at a home in the 1500 block of Eagleview Road in Goodview.

(Photo: Amanda Lee/WFXR News)

Investigators and animal control officers arrived and spoke with a man at the home, saying the smell of ammonia was so strong that they had to back out of the house.

Authorities were able to get a search warrant and found 26 dogs in and around the home, all malnourished and in poor living conditions. Twelve of those dogs were taken to a veterinarian while the other 14 dogs were taken to the Bedford County Animal Shelter.

WFXR News has been told that the dogs are very thin and in poor health.

The man inside of the home has been taken into custody and is facing animal cruelty charges. Additional charges may be forthcoming.

(Photo: Amanda Lee/WFXR News)

The Bedford County Hazmat team was joined by the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, building inspectors, and the health department at the Goodview residence.

Bedford County Sheriff Mike Miller tells WFXR News that he hopes that the animals will be okay, but that will be determined by a veterinarian.

Law enforcement officials will be meeting with the Commonwealth’s Attorney to see if any other charges may be brought against the man, who has yet to be identified.

BEDFORD COUNTY, Va. (WFXR) — The Bedford County Sheriff’s Office alerted community members Tuesday afternoon as deputies serve a search warrant for animal cruelty and animal hoarding.

According to authorities, the warrant is being served in the 1500 block of Eagleview Road in Goodview.

The sheriff’s office says it has asked for help from local veterinarians and numerous animal rescue partners as part of this operation.

This is a developing story.