HAMPTON, Va. — After 21 dogs were found dead in a Virginia home, new details are emerging about the suspect in the case and his history with animal control, CNN affiliate WTKR reports .
Vernon Silver was arrested last week and charged with felony cruelty to animals and disposal of dead companion animals after authorities found nearly two dozen deceased dogs in his home on Abbey Court in Hampton, Va. Police were called there to investigate a small coming from the house. When they went inside, they found the dogs.
It’s not the first time authorities visited Silver’s home. In 2014, animal control officers found 16 dogs in standing water, mud, feces and urine at the home. At the time, rain was in the forecast and the dogs had no way to get out of the water and “the caretaker/owner could not remove them from the situation,” court records show. Also during that visit authorities found four dogs in small crates inside a shed and unable to move.
Out of a slew of charges, Silver was found guilty of four misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty, records show, and sentenced to 2 years unsupervised probation and prohibited from possessing, owning and maintaining any animals during that probation period.
Seven years prior, in 2007, Silver was found guilty of cruelty to an animal, a pit bull, court records show.
PETA received complaints in 2008 about Silver’s home, senior vice president of cruelty investigations Daphna Nachminovitch told WTKR.
Nachminovitch said legislators introduced a bill this year that sought to make cruelty to animals a felony, even if the animal does not die. The bill did not pass.
Still, Silver’s new charges include felony animal cruelty, his second offense in five years, which the Hampton Commonwealth’s Attorney will prosecute.
A felony animal cruelty charge carries a maximum sentence of 5 years in prison.
Hampton Police asked for a dog fighting charge, but the magistrate’s office said there was not enough evidence.
A neighbor told News 3 she called animal control about the smell outside the home more than two weeks ago, but she said nothing was done.
A Hampton Police spokesman says that just before 5 p.m. on Feb. 9 animal control officers were dispatched to the 200 block of Pochin Place on a welfare check. But after getting no response at the residence, the officer cleared the complaint.
“At that time there were no signs of canines on the property to substantiate the complaint,” Sgt. Matt Bond said.
Animal rights activist Shocky Boyajian hoped those calls had happened sooner.
“Where did he get these dogs from? Did he walk into the county shelter and adopt them? If so, how was he able to do that?” Boyajian said.
“We hope, in the rescue community, that the third time is the charm and he gets the punishment he deserves for what he’s done.”
On Saturday night, a memorial made of candles, chew toys, dog treats and roses grew in front of the home, left there by animal advocates who held a vigil for the dogs. They gave each canine that died a name.