57 dogs and puppies seized in animal cruelty investigation, Orange County officials say

Orange County officials seized 57 dogs and puppies Friday after hearing reports of malnourishment and unsanitary conditions, the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said.

Two people have been charged with felony cruelty to animals with more charges possible, according to a news release. Taylor Doar, 35, was arrested Friday. His mother, Cynthia Riggan, 65, also has been charged and turned herself in late Friday, the sheriff’s office said.

Friday, the sheriff’s office and the county’s Animal Services Department searched two properties off Alexander Drive, an area north of Chapel Hill town limits, after hearing of the mistreatment report Oct. 9. One of the reports came from a veterinarian who had examined some of the animals on the property.

Animal control officers investigated the residences and were “familiar” with the properties; animals are boarded and bred there, the release said.

Taylor Doar mug
Taylor Doar Orange County Sheriff's Office

When they arrived, they noticed a strong smell of animal urine and feces, the release said.

Bob Marotto, animal services director, said the dogs will be evaluated and treated. They will remain at the Orange County shelter as the legal process progresses.

“If they become the property of Orange County, we will take all reasonable measures to ensure the animals have long lives and are appropriately rehomed if the case is decided in our favor,” Marotto said in a statement.

A spokesperson for the sheriff’s office couldn’t provide a description of the dogs’ conditions until the examinations are completed. On Saturday morning, the sheriff’s office said all of the animals are expected to survive.

“We will hold the dogs at our facility pending further order of the court,” Marotto said in a statement released Saturday. “We house and treat many animals each year, but receiving 57 at one time represents an extraordinary circumstance. Financial and material donations will certainly help us with the cost of treating and caring for the animals we serve.”

The investigation is ongoing. Doar and Riggan are scheduled to make their first appearance in court on Tuesday afternoon.