DULUTH - Gwinnett County Animal Control teams removed 19 dogs of the same breed from a single-story Duluth home Tuesday afternoon, though reasons surrounding the capture remain unclear.
Officers carted away 19 Salukis - a normally thin breed similar to greyhounds - from a home at 3869 Vickie Court.
The animals' owner, Sue Jones, said she has raised and shown the breed for more than 30 years and maintained her dogs were not underfed or mistreated. She was told by authorities Tuesday her animals were "too thin," she said.
Neighbors fed up with what they called a foul odor and noisy, inhumane conditions at Jones' residence disagreed and recently contacted local authorities.
Jones dismissed their actions as "a witch hunt," she said.
Gwinnett Police Department spokeswoman Cpl. Illana Spellman said animal control personnel visited Jones last week to issue citations related to barking and unsanitary conditions, finding 29 crated Salukis within the home.
The home's interior, however, was sanitary, and investigators left, Spellman said.
"The ordinance doesn't really address dogs that are inside, only outside," she said.
Animal Control officials declined an interview on scene Tuesday and were not available for comment later.
Duluth's mayor, Shirley Lasseter, said the city passed a kennel ordinance about four weeks ago, restricting the number of animals in homes.
Duluth officials had visited the property, said Lasseter, but she was uncertain if the ordinance had anything to do with Tuesday's dog seizure.
"This is one of the first times we've had an enormous amount of animals in one home," Lasseter said. "I'm glad the problem was able to be resolved."
Jones, the dog owner, said she was not cited for an ordinance violation Tuesday but expects to be "fined exorbitantly" later. She had yet to take steps Tuesday evening to have the animals returned.
"I do not believe that (the Salukis) will be found to be in ill health," Jones said. "The breed is fundamentally very healthy. My dogs have a history of being healthy - extremely healthy."
But Jones' neighbors have a decidedly different take.
Clarence Russell shares a tall, formerly electrified fenceline with Jones. He contends his neighbor has hoarded nearly 30 Salukis in the same one-story home, creating a filthy and noisy environment that is intolerable.
"It's unbelievable that (Jones) could get away with this for so long," he said.
Russell moved to the quiet cul-de-sac he shares with Jones three months ago and immediately contacted authorities - from local police to a national Saluki association - seeking help. He said by last weekend, when a local television station filmed Jones' property, the animals were clearly emaciated and sick.
"I'm so happy those dogs will get cleaned tonight and be out of this miserable environment," Russell said. "It's taken us a long time, but we finally got them poor babies out of here."
But the question still remains - if 29 dogs were in Jones' home last week and 19 were taken Tuesday, what happened to the other 10 dogs?
Russell suspects his neighbor carted off the sickest of the bunch and delivered them to a home in Norcross where the owner of Jones' home lives, he said.
Jones said she "possibly" had more dogs on site last week but declined to offer further details.
"(The dogs) have been placed with somebody else," Jones said. "I have been searching for the right kind of environment to keep these dogs. Everybody wants the best for their animals."
Cherie Fehrman of the not-for-profit STOLA - Saluki Tree of Life Alliance - is aware of the Duluth situation and has been in contact with local animal control officials.
Fehrman's group will provide the seized dogs with veterinary care and place them in pre-screened adoptive homes, she said.
STOLA refers to the compulsion to collect numerous animals as "hoarding," which is "a very serious problem and is much more common than most people realize," Fehrman said. "Hoarding has a very negative impact on animals and communities alike."
'I do not believe that (the Salukis) will be found to be in ill health. ... The breed is fundamentally very healthy. My dogs have a history of being healthy - extremely healthy.'