Deputies find more than 100 dogs on Jackson County woman's property

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Updated by: Charlene Cristobal
February 18, 2017

CHIPLEY, Fla. (WCTV) -- Clarification: All the dogs rescued from Jackson County are up for adoption. However, they cannot go home with their new families right away. They are currently all on a 'stray hold', which prevents the shelter from releasing the rescues right away. For most of the dogs, the stray hold will be lifted on February 21st.

The process, as of Saturday: the Shelter will take your information, the dog you would like to adopt, and then put a collar on that dog. That dog will then not be able to be adopted by another family. Once the stray hold is lifted, the Shelter will give you a call at the number you provided to them. From there, they will give you vet information and other important information for your new furry family member.

As of Saturday, more than half of the 120+ dogs have been spoken for according to Shelter staff.

If you would like more information about adoption, you can call the Shelter at 850-638-2082 during the hours of 9:00am to 12:00pm, Monday through Saturday.


By: Charlene Cristobal
February, 17, 2017

CHIPLEY, Fla. (WCTV) -- More than 100 of dogs are at the Chipley Animal Shelter after being rescued from Dorene Smigiel's property in Jackson County.

In the early hours of Friday morning, all of the dogs were taken to the Chipley Animal Shelter where they are being taken care of by Belva Vaughn and volunteers.

"The officers from Jackson county were back and forth all night, bringing in dogs by the truckload," says Belva. "[They were] getting them into kennels, getting them fed, separating them, that sort of thing."

Some are in good shape, others not so good. But overall, Belva says most of the dogs are friendly and loving.

"They're really sweet, friendly, they're cute," says Belva. "It's just going to be so easy to help re-home them into good places. I've already gotten an enormous waiting list of rescue groups ready to step in and help."

Jackson County deputies say all the dogs were living on Dorene Smigiel's property in Grand Ridge. They say some were packed into small cages with anywhere from two to seven dogs. And others looked like they had been walking in urine and feces for days.

After being alerted by some in the community, the Sheriff's Office began investigating, and ended up seizing more than 120 dogs from Smigiel's property, including French bulldogs, English bulldogs, chihuahuas, yorkies and even Great Danes. They say Smigiel told them she had been keep hundreds of dogs for years.

Laurie Hood with Alaqua Animal Rescue says animal abuse needs to stop.

"Honestly we see a lot of it," says Hood. "You know the puppy mill business isn't necessarily regulated and this is what this is. It's a puppy mill. People that breed animals, I feel, that they should be held responsible."

Hood says the rescue group was called while deputies were at Smigiel's home. Deputies wanted to know the best way to handle the dogs. Hood says it makes her emotional knowing what the dogs were living in.

"It's a shame because the animals suffer," says Hood. "The people who adopt these animals, they think they're getting a happy healthy puppy and then they end up with medical bills that they have to pay after the fact and it's truly heartbreaking."

Thankfully, Belva and the animal shelter have been overwhelmed with calls from potential adopters, foster families, even volunteers just wanting to lend a helping hand.

"We have had such an outpouring of people saying, 'can we come help bathe the dogs,' 'can we come help clip the ones that are matted,'" says Belva. "And for all the bad that you sometimes see, with the way people treat animals, it just really warms your heart to have the public step up like they're doing and want to come in and help."

All of the dogs rescued from Jackson County are up for adoption. Some still need some TLC, but if you are interested, you can call Belva and the Animal Shelter at (850) 638-2082, during the hours of 9:00am to 12:00pm, Monday through Saturday. They are getting a lot of calls so if you can't get through, keep calling or stop by the shelter, located at 686 US-90 in Chipley.

The Jackson County Sheriff's Office is working with the State Attorney's Office on charges. They say they plan to charge Smigiel with multiple counts of animal cruelty.


GRAND RIDGE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Charges are pending against a Jackson County woman after deputies say more than 100 dogs were found on her property in "less than adequate or sanitary" living conditions.

Jackson County deputies say Dorene Smigiel was keeping 127 dogs on a small area of her property. Some of pens the dogs were being kept in were as small as three feet by four feet while containing anywhere from two to seven dogs each.

Deputies say several of the dogs didn't have clean drinking water and some had been walking in their own feces and urine for several days. Some of the dogs also had lesions and skin conditions that required treatment, according to JCSO.

Authorities say Smigiel agreed to turn the dogs over to a local animal shelter. The investigation is ongoing and criminal charges are pending, deputies say.