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Old July 8th, 2004, 06:25 PM
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SPCA officer charged with animal cruelty

SPCA officer charged with animal cruelty


BY KIM O'BRIEN ROOT
928-6473

Published July 3, 2004



NORFOLK -- A Newport News animal control officer and his wife have been charged with illegally selling puppies and keeping them in unsanitary conditions in their Norfolk home, police said.

Thomas Kight and his wife, Debbie, were charged after a sting operation by Norfolk police - undercover officers answered an ad the couple placed in a newspaper and bought a $400 Shih Tzu puppy, said Norfolk animal control Officer Mark Kumpf. Police later searched the home and seized three other puppies - another Shih Tzu and two rat terriers.

The puppies weren't in bad shape physically, but were flea-infested and had urine and feces on them, Kumpf said. The cage where the puppies were kept had moldy feces and maggots, Kumpf said.

Three adult dogs that appeared to be family pets were in good health and were left with the couple, police said.

Kight, 60, was charged Thursday with one count of animal cruelty, one count of importation of underage animals across state lines without their mother and selling animals without a health certificate, a Norfolk police spokesman said.

Kight's wife, Debbie, 51, was charged with one count of animal cruelty, one count of selling companion animals without a permit, three counts of failure to license, three counts of failure to vaccinate and selling animals without a health certificate.

All the charges are misdemeanors.

It's illegal to sell puppies if they are younger than seven weeks or to import them under eight weeks without their mother, according to the Virginia Animal Control Association.

If a puppy is purchased when it is still underaged, the new owner can't take possession right away.

The puppies are just now eight weeks old, Kumpf said.

Police conducted the sting after getting complaints about the conditions in which the puppies were kept, Kumpf said.

Thomas Kight has been an animal control officer with the Peninsula Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for more than 20 years, and has also helped with the wild animals at the shelter.

He was suspended from his job Friday and the SPCA has launched an internal investigation and contacted Newport News police, said SPCA board president Allen Tanner.

"We take these allegations very seriously," Tanner said Friday. "This isn't acceptable. We're going to work very hard to get to the bottom of this."

The SPCA is getting out of the animal-control business and turning those services over to the localities it serves. Newport News and Hampton decided to end their contracts with the SPCA after an audit last year found that the nonprofit had misspent public dollars. A state investigation is ongoing.

A man who answered the phone at Kight's Norfolk home Friday hung up without comment.

Anyone who had problems after buying a puppy from the Kights is asked to call Norfolk animal control at 664-7387
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