Rescued animals get chance at the good life

Amid an outpouring of support and donations from volunteers, scores of dogs and cats at a makeshift Lincoln County shelter Saturday were boasting clean coats and cheery dispositions.

The dogs and cats were among nearly 400 animals seized from the Denver home of Vicki Rauch, who was charged Friday with nine felony counts of cruelty to animals.

“They look like they're smiling,” Lincoln County Animal Services director Jack Kerley said. “They actually have room to get up and walk around now.”

Authorities say Rauch kept a total of 393 animals cooped in pens, sometimes stacking several animals in one airline crate where the animals could barely move. Investigators say most of the animals – dogs, cats, mice, gerbils, rabbits and llamas — were wallowing in waste and had dirty, algae-filled water.

Rauch's husband, Michael Rauch, 47, and son, Brandon Olsen, 19, have also been charged with cruelty to animals. The family could not be reached for comment, but Vicki Rauch told a local television news crew recently that her family did nothing to hurt any of the animals.

The makeshift rescue shelter, at the former R-Anell Homes plant in Denver, buzzed with activity Saturday as area residents dropped off donations and volunteers washed, treated and comforted the animals.

Volunteers said the animals were all generally friendly, and they had no problems with aggressive behavior. Many said they were pleased to see how rapidly some of the animals are healing.

“This is a very humbling experience,” Mooresville resident Susan Humphrey said as she cuddled a long-haired Chihuahua nicknamed Lola. “Some of these animals have come a long way.”

Meanwhile, self-described dog lover Sherrie Watson dropped off several large bags of dog food and cat litter, as well as paper towels and chips for the volunteers.

“Somebody has to take care of these animals,” she said. “They deserve a better life.”

While many animals are doing well or improving, Kerley said others are still critical. Some suffer from heartworms, intestinal worms or other organ problems and have had to be rushed to surgery.

None of the animals will be available for adoption until after the criminal allegations are resolved.

“I've got animals in hospitals from here to Raleigh,” he said. “We're having to treat this almost like a man-made disaster.”