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32 Great Danes — some ‘near death’ — rescued from Virginia home

KING AND QUEEN COUNTY, Va. -- More than 30 Great Danes were rescued from a home in St. Stephens Church, Virginia, a spokesperson for King and Queen County Sheriff’s Office said.

“The condition of the 20 adult dogs and 12 puppies rescued ranged from poor to near death,” King and Queen County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy W.R. Balderson said. “Five of the dogs were discovered barricaded inside a small, dilapidated camper. Both the camper and the dogs were covered in feces and urine. There was no food or water in the camper. The temperature inside the camper was extreme and without ventilation. The remainder of the dogs were inside the residence with very little food and no water.”

The dogs were discovered following an August 27 search of a property on Owens Mill Road.

Law enforcement arrested the dogs’ owners — Richard Awlasewicz, 52, and Candice Wheat, 39 — are charged with pair with animal cruelty.

Richard Awlasewicz and Candice Wheat

Both are out on jail on bond.

“At [his] arraignment, Awlasewicz, the owner of 101danes made unsubstantiated claims that two of the dogs seized are service dogs for Awlasewicz and Wheat,” Balderson said. “Awlasewicz’s attorney asked that the two dogs be returned immediately. The Judge declined to entertain Awlasewicz’s attorneys request.”

Awlasewicz returns to court September 20 when a civil hearing on the seizure of the animals will be heard and a judge will determine if the dogs will be returned to the couple.

The criminal cases are scheduled for November 1.

The dogs are being nursed back to health at the King William Regional Animal Shelter.

The shelter’s manager, Lauri Betts, said when the dogs were first brought in, they were suffering from malnutrition, intestinal parasites, and general shyness.

"They were iffy with us, I mean, just because they were starved and all they wanted was food, food, food. They weren’t used to a lot of handling,” said Betts. “Trying to…look in their mouth, clean their ears. They just weren’t having it. Now, it’s like, we can do anything.”

Because of the influx of the dogs, the shelter has been closed since August 28 and Betts said they do need help with supplies.

Betts said they are asking for donations of hand towels, bleach and laundry detergent, and canned pumpkin (the kind without spice). She said you can drop them off at the shelter and if no one answers the door, just leave them on the doorstep.

King and Queen County Sheriff’s Office is directing anyone who would like to donate items or help to email the department.

Officials are asking citizens not to call their office as they have become overwhelmed with calls from people wanting to help.

This is a developing story. Witnesses can send news tips, photos, and video here.

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