RICHMOND, Va. - The founder of a former Blair County-based animal rescue group has been charged with animal cruelty and inadequate care of animals by Virginia authorities.
Tamira Thayne was served with warrants from the Surry County, Va., Sheriff's Office about 5:30 p.m. Monday, a reporter from Richmond television station WTVR told the Mirror.
Thayne runs Dogs Deserve Better, formerly of Tipton, which is now based in Smithfield, Va. The dog sanctuary under question by authorities was the former dogfighting compound of NFL quarterback Michael Vick.
Thayne couldn't be reached for comment by the Mirror but told The Associated Press that she was shocked to learn of the charges.
"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," Terry told the AP.
In addition to the warrants, authorities also seized organization records and one dog, WTVR reported.
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 ... is going on here."
The group defended Thayne in a post on the organization's Facebook page Monday night.
"There is no truth to the recent news articles," the post read. "This is another attempt by a small group of people who are trying to put an end to Dogs Deserve Better and other rescue groups. They have been sending in false claims to the Surry County officials and demanding they close our rescue. We have copies of their letters and are in the process of getting it straightened out."
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.
This is not the first time Thayne has raised the ire of authorities.
Thayne, who was also known as Tammy Sneath Grimes, was cited for not having a dog licensed in March 2007 after several dogs were found unlicensed in her possession during a dog-bite investigation, the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture said.
Thayne told the Mirror at the time that she had not received renewal notices from Blair County. She licensed the dogs the same day as the investigation.
In December 2007, Thayne was found guilty of theft and receiving stolen property for taking an ailing 19-year-old dog from a yard in East Freedom and refusing to return him to the owners after a neighbor complained to a Dogs Deserve Better representative that the dog had been prone for three days in the yard, unable to move and without food and water.
She was sentenced to probation and to perform 300 hours of community service. She lost an appeal to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.