The News & Observer by Mark Schultz and Tammy Grubb

Eighty-five dogs and puppies seized from an alleged puppy mill in Chatham County will soon be going to adoption groups, including at least one in the Triangle.

The dogs, miniature schnauzers and schnauzer mixes, were among 214 dogs seized by the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, Animal Rescue Corps. (ARC) and the BISSELL Pet Foundation on two visits to a breeding facility in Bear Creek, in southwestern Chatham County.

Five dogs, including four puppies, were found dead during a Feb. 6 visit, in addition to six dogs that were found dead during a Jan. 25 visit, The News & Observer previously reported. Several puppies have been born since the dogs were rescued, ARC officials said.

The dogs and puppies that are almost ready for adoption were released from custody under a surrender agreement with one of the accused breeders. They are now at the nonprofit ARC’s Rescue Center outside Nashville, Tennessee.

Some will go to North Carolina-based groups, including Pawfect Match Rescue in Holly Springs, Forsyth Humane Society in Winston-Salem, and the Humane Society of Charlotte, the Sheriff’s Office stated in a news release Friday.

They will be available for adoption once they have been spayed or neutered and get other care. People who want to adopt them should watch the rescue groups’ social media for updates.


Potential adopters should know these dogs have a long road ahead of them, said Debbie Sandlin, a board member with Pawfect Match Rescue.

“Their feet have never touched grass. They’ve lived in a little crate and just been breeding machines,” she said in an interview Friday night.

“They’re going to have to learn what it is to be a pet, to be loved and treasured and be part of a family,” she said, “rather than just inventory.”

The rescue is getting 11 of the 85 dogs, including four or five puppies Monday (March 11), which it will place in foster homes before making them available for adoption, Sandlin said. In addition to getting sterilized, some need dental work.

The adoption fee is $400 which helps pay for food, supplies and vetting, which includes a physical exam, medical grooming, spay/neuter surgery, a rabies vaccine, a distemper-Parvo vaccine, an identifying microchip, flea and tick prevention, a heartworm test, heartworm prevention, and a physical exam), operations manager and adult dog coordinator Monica Adams said in an email.

If a dog is heartworm positive or has other medical needs, “we will fund raise to cover the cost of that as well,,” Adams said. “As you can imagine, vetting costs almost always exceed the cost of the adoption fee.”

Sandlin encouraged people to check the nonprofit’s website at to see all the dogs in the rescue’s care and to consider becoming foster families for other dogs, as humane groups struggle to meet the need.

“The animal world is in crisis right now,” she said.


The remaining dogs seized in January and February are still being kept as evidence in the case against the two suspected puppy mill operators, Chatham County Sheriff Mike Roberson said in Friday’s news release.

Alicia Dawn Culberson, 36, and Kelly Dawn Privat, 48, are each charged with 10 counts of animal cruelty, The N&O previously reported.

The ARC’s Rescue Center helps animal victims of suspected cruelty, neglect and disaster recover from their trauma, the group states.

“We couldn’t be happier for these 85 dogs ready to ... find their place as loved family members, while we remain equally dedicated to the 136 dogs [from the second accused operator] who will remain in our care through the legal process,” executive director Tim Woodward said in the release.


U.S. Rep. Deborah Ross, a Democrat from Wake County, and Florida Rep. Vern Buchanan, Republican co-chairman of the Animal Protection Caucus, filed a “Petfax” bill — HR 7211 — just days after the Chatham puppy rescue.

The bipartisan bill would make the pet-buying process more transparent and enact stricter rules for maintaining and selling pets. It also would create more accountability for breeders and require sellers to provide new owners with a “Petfax” report showing where the dog was bred and any health problems.

The bill would also apply to cats, Ross told The N&O.

Ross worked on the same issue when she was in the N.C. General Assembly over a decade ago and said the state has very few laws protecting animals from puppy mills and bad breeders.

A federal approach might be better, she said, because puppy mills are a national problem. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle could be motivated to support the bill, whether they want to shut down puppy mills or protect consumers who buy a sick pet, she said.

A similar bipartisan bill sponsored by Reps. Charlie Crist, a Florida Democrat, and Guy Reschenthaler, a Pennsylvania Republican, was introduced in Congress in 2020. It remains in the Subcommittee on Livestock and Foreign Agriculture. While she’s not “overly optimistic” a new law is possible this year, Ross said the bill will raise awareness of the need for changes.

“It’s a good time to lay the foundation and highlight the issue … in the hopes that both consumers and breeders will modify their behavior,” Ross said.