20 Dogs Dead After Fire at Suspected Puppy Mill

INDIAN TRAIL, N.C. – An unsure step on charred metal from one of the small dogs that survived a fire in Union County Wednesday morning. 20 others, including six puppies, didn’t make it out alive. They were trapped inside what once was an RV.

Bobby Gladden says he and his wife tried to save the animals. “We go (sic) around the other side of the house, bust the glass out, trying to get the dogs out, and it was so hot we couldn’t get them out,” he said.

His wife was taken to the hospital for her injuries. He says, “She got cut, you know, trying to take her hand, busting a window, get her dog, ’cause she had one special dog in there.”

Gladden and his wife live in the home on Secrest Short Cut Road near Indian Trail, described as backyard breeders. The Union County Sheriff’s Office is not unfamiliar with this address. UCSO spokesman Tony Underwood says, “We’ve had calls out here previously from passing motorists, just reporting that dogs are running loose, dogs were seen near the roadway, there were concerned for their welfare and safety.”

As many as 75 dogs were kept here until two weeks ago, when the couple reportedly turned over about a dozen to animal control. 30 more were turned over after Wednesday’s fire. 3 or 4 ran into the woods and couldn’t be caught. And we’re told nine were left with the owner. He says he’s spending the night in his car.

Animal rescuer Barbara Blair, the president of Humane Society of Union County, says she understands the Sheriff’s hands are tied. She says, “Unfortunately, the laws in Union County are very lenient with backyard breeders.”

The spokesman for the Sheriff’s office says the cause of the fire is still under investigation. He says animal control will continue to look into the situation with the dogs.