BUNCOMBE COUNTY, N.C. (WLOS) -- A profile is emerging for the Leicester woman accused of hoarding 41 dogs and starving a horse to death on her property.

The Buncombe County Sheriff's Office says officers with the Animal Services Unit served a search warrant at 138 Tall Tree Lane on the morning of Jan. 31, 2023. About a dozen American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) members spent about eight hours removing the animals from the property and transporting them to an undisclosed location.

"The dogs, including nine newborn puppies, as well as a tortoise, a rabbit, a fish, and several birds, were found living in neglectful conditions in an overcrowded mobile home in Leicester," a news release from ASPCA said.

Warrants show 39-year-old Lindsey Rue is charged with felony killing an animal by starvation, felony animal cruelty, child neglect, and resist delay or obstruct.

Warrants show Rue also has an official misdemeanor charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. The warrant states investigators found a four-year-old child “living in his mother’s house,” “heavily littered with (animal) excrement and urine.” The warrant did not definitely state if Rue is the child’s mother but warrants list the home on Tall Tree Drive as Rue’s residence.

Major John Ledford with the Buncombe Sheriff’s Office said he’s had experience with major animal hoarding cases in the past.

“I think it becomes almost an obsession with them,” said Ledford. “They think they’re actually helping the animals when in fact they’re harming them.”

Ledford also confirmed Rue had previously been arrested in 2022 for DUI in Kansas.

“There were a number of dogs and maybe a turtle in the car at the time of that arrest,” said Ledford.

Rue had her initial court appearance Wednesday. In addition to the felony charge of killing an animal by starvation, Rue was also charged with a misdemeanor charge of resisting an officer. Charging information alleges Rue refused to get in the sheriff’s squad car and had to be dragged into the car after she was arrested for animal cruelty. Major Ledford said investigators have been working the case since last November when the department began receiving complaints about potential animal neglect on Rue’s property.

“You just can’t go in and seize someone’s animals,” said Ledford of the three-month-long investigation. “It’s only when they fail to follow through with some of the suggestions we make that we had no choice but to go in with a search warrant.”

The ASPCA has taken in the dogs. Alyssa Fleck, a spokeswoman for the organization, said some of the dogs are at the nonprofit’s facility in Weaverville but will go to an emergency shelter outside the county. “Since we don’t have ownership of the dogs, it’s too early for us to begin exploring placement options.”

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