WYTHE COUNTY, Va. -

A Wythe County magistrate did not find probable cause to issue a summons to the owner of 11 dogs.

Several people have questioned the care that owner Mike Thomas has provided to the dogs. The story has gained national attention.

According to a news release, the magistrate relied on a recent letter sent to the county’s animal control officer from the state’s Office of Animal Care & Health Policy as contributing factors to the decision.

Here is the news release from the Wythe County Department of Public Information:

A Wythe County magistrate did not find probably cause to issue a summons Monday morning to Mike Thomas, owner of eleven dogs on Walton Furnace Road.

The magistrate relied upon a recent letter sent to the county’s animal control officer from the state’s Office of Animal Care & Health Policy as a contributing factor in his decision.

In the letter, state veterinarian Carolynn Bissett stated “It is my professional opinion that the dogs in Mr.
Thomas’ care are not in immediate danger and do not need to be seized. In addition, I do not believe these dogs will be well served by removal from Mr. Thomas’ care…”

The veterinarian was accompanied by members of the Virginia State Police, as well as the Botetourt County Commonwealth Attorney, during her visit late last month.

Bissett also noted that each of the eleven dogs were individually examined and found that “adequate care was being provided for all eleven dogs,” adding, “All dogs were in good body condition, with clean haircoats.”

These assessments seem to back up the observations of previous professionals who have examined the dogs, including local animal control officers and veterinarians.

The letter also stated, “Mr. Thomas was providing adequate exercise for all dogs. Inadequate exercise is easily diagnosed on physical examination by the lack of muscle definition and discernible muscle atrophy.”

Despite having found the animal’s shelter to be free of drafts and containing windows and ventilation, Bissett wrote in her letter that, in her opinion, “adequate shelter was not being provided for the dogs on the property.” Reporting a “moderate amount of hair and dust” in the enclosure, as well as a chain link containing “several sharp edges,” the veterinarian advised that adequate shelter was not being provided. The county’s magistrate, however, did not feel that these items were enough to warrant a summons against Mr. Thomas.

County officials are presently working with various non-profit organizations, as well as the representatives of the landowners to build a new shelter and demolish the old one that has become the source of such national attention.

Wythe County animal control officers will continue to monitor the dogs.

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A long-running story about nearly a dozen dogs in Wythe County kept inside a very different looking doghouse- has taken another turn.

A new report provides better details about the care of those animals.

Several weeks ago an out-of-state animal activist group appeared in Wythe County and showed up on a man's property, saying they wanted to help him take better care of his 11 dogs.

A portion of the video shows one dog chewing on a piece of metal fence. That was enough for Tamira Thayne with "Dogs Deserve Better."

"That's why I came down and got video of (the dogs) to prove that they are still there and they're still suffering today," Thayne said.

This story began about five years ago when pictures appeared on the internet showing many of those flea-infested dogs that needed better care.

Since then county officials say the owner has met several times with animal control officers and several local veterinarians. According to county officials the owner, Mike Thomas, has kept his dogs flea free and all the animals are up to date with required shots and tags. The latest meeting took place a week ago.

Wednesday we were given a report prepared by the office of animal care and health policy, which is under the department of agricultural and consumer services. It states the owner needs to remove sharp edges inside the doghouse, make the floor cleaner, and create more space.

But nowhere did the report say the dogs were being abused or neglected. Wythe County Public Information Officer Jeremy T.K. Farley said the dogs were well taken care of.

"(The veterinarian) even mentioned in the report that they accidentally let some of the dogs out and to get them back,” Farley said. “Mr. Thomas rolled around on the ground and the dogs came and played with him. So certainly they did not find any abuse with the animals."