ATHENS, Texas (KETK) – The hidden practices of backyard breeders has come to light after Starcross Wolves owner Bill Lambert committed suicide on his property.
His death left his dogs to fend for themselves and rescuers to pick up the pieces.
“They get in over their head with breeding facilities and unfortunately they have no where to turn,” says Shelby Bobosky, the Executive Director of the Texas Humane Legislation Network. “We found out that there were over 50 dogs that were released, escaped, or languishing in the hot Texas sun.”
“We worked the death investigation, then got in touch with our animal control deputies and tried to find placements with the wolf dogs,” says Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse.
Animal rescue organization Villalobos, based in New Orleans, stepped up to lead the rescue efforts, setting traps, catching dogs, and rebuilding fences. The conditions they found the animals living in were described by volunteers as filthy.
“I’ve never seen animals in such conditions before,” says John Ramer, Executive Director of Kindness Ranch. “I can’t possibly define the heat, the humidity, the stench. The overall feeling of being out there. You could almost taste the death. Not just the human that passed, the countless dogs that passed and were probably left.”
An old customer of Lambert, Brittany Beschta recalls her husband telling her of the animals horrid living conditions when going to pick up their wolf dog almost three years ago. This lead to their puppy coming home with parvo and worms. Lambert had claimed the dog they bought was 89% wolf. They later found out through a DNA test that she is only 5.8% wolf.
KETK News found similar complaints dating back to 2004. There is no evidence Lambert was ever licensed by the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulations.
“He knew this regulation and kept his breeding females under 11 so he never had to be regulated,” says Bobosky.
The Texas Humane Legislation Network is pushing for better laws regulating puppy mills to keep this from happening.
“We are really hoping that the dog and cat breeder act is not sunseted but in fact strengthened so we can lower that number of breeding females from 11 to 5. If we keep the threshold at 11 we are going to miss so many more like this gentleman, who was clearly every bad element of a backyard breeder,” says Boboski.
The remaining wolf dogs are so feral that they can never be caught and put in homes. Villalobos has raised more than $50,000 to buy the property for the rest of the dogs to live out their days.
One dog captured on the property, now named Q, is living on Kindness Ranch, where he is learning how to trust for the very first time. Click here to watch his journey.