A man from Hampton, Virginia, was arrested on 65 charges after police say they discovered 21 dead dogs in his home during a welfare checkup.
A contractor working in the area noticed a foul smell, and called the police in the early morning of March 6. The smell emanated from the house of 58-year-old Vernon Silver, and the call prompted authorities to check on the house, according to WTKR.
When police arrived, they found 21 dead dogs on the property. All of the dogs were pit bulls and investigators found bite sticks, spring poles and steroids, which all indicate Silver used the animals for dog fighting.
Most of the dogs appeared to have been dead for a while and were found severely emaciated. The police report states that many of the dogs' eyes were eaten out by maggots and that the dogs were "liquefied in their cages."
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Only one dog was found to still be alive. The dog was also extremely emaciated and confined to a cage surrounded by feces and urine. The dog required emergency veterinary treatment, but is expected to make a recovery.
Neighbors told WTKR they thought the house was abandoned. One man says that he often saw Silver visit the house to let the dogs outside to exercise, but admits that he hasn't seen Silver or the dogs in months.
Silver told police he purchased the dogs through a number of different people and kept them all at the house. He confirmed that he lived at a different property and would visit the house to take care of the dogs. He claims that he fell ill near the end of February and was unable to walk, leaving the 22 dogs without food or water.
Neighbor Michelle Vandran says that she only saw Silver with two pit bulls, but did see him abuse the dogs.
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"They were howling all hours of the night," she said. "He would punch them, pick them up by their throats and throw them. To me that's abuse."
Former animal control officer Misty Collins hopes the incident will prompt people in the community to call authorities if they suspect animal abuse.
"These dogs can't speak up they depend on us to make the right decision and pick up the phone," she said.
Regina Quinn, founder of pit bull advocacy group Blue Angels Advocacy and Rescue, has set up a small memorial with dog treats for the dogs outside the home, according to WAVY. The group gave each dog a name and collected donations for the veterinary bills of the only surviving dog.
“[This is] a surreal feeling," she says. "Like did this really happen right under our noses? How could this have happened?"
Silver remains in Hampton City Jail without bail. He is expected to appear in court later in March.