ALFRED, Maine — State officials seized dogs and cats from an unlicensed animal shelter Thursday in Alfred.
Details were sparse early Thursday evening, but Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry spokesperson Jim Britt confirmed to NEWS CENTER Maine a search warrant executed at Saving Lives Animal Shelter resulted in dogs and cats being seized.
"I cannot disclose many investigation details, but I can say failed inspections and failures to comply with the standards established by the department for licensed animal shelters led to today's seizure of dogs and cats," Britt wrote in an email.
NEWS CENTER Maine spoke with the shelter owner Brenda MacKenzie, who denies any mistreatment of the animals. According to MacKenzie, she was not expecting animals to be seized. The owner said she was taking care of 27 rescue animals waiting to be adopted, as well as 13 personal dogs and seven cats. MacKenzie said all 47 animals under her care were taken.
"I don't think it needed to go the way it went. I would not have been opposed to them taking animals, but I don't think it was necessary to take my personal animals," MacKenzie said.
MacKenzie told NEWS CENTER Maine the rescue animals she was sheltering over the past several months had to be quarantined multiple times because of Parvo, a highly contagious virus that affects dogs, and other illnesses. MacKenzie said dogs were unable to be adopted because of their quarantine.
The owner said she agreed to turn over the shelter animals because of the illness, but NEWS CENTER Maine has not verified this claim with the state.
According to its website, Saving Lives Animal Shelter "is a cat and dog rescue service in Alfred, Maine, dedicated to improving the lives of the animals that we rescue and help find their forever homes. We focus on the prevention of animal cruelty, neglect, and euthanasia through our advocacy campaigns and informational initiatives."
The shelter, owned by MacKenzie and located at 58 Sanford Road, has been the center of controversy for months, according to town minutes.
York County deputies hand-delivered a letter to MacKenzie in January notifying her she had 30 days to become in compliance or legal action would be filed, according to board minutes.
On Feb. 1, town officials reportedly were told the facility fostered dogs but was not an animal shelter. One week later, the Alfred Board of Selectmen was told state officials were at the unlicensed facility that day because a case of Parvo had been detected, according to meeting minutes.
In March, town officials said they consulted legal counsel.
"It's been a horrible day, and it's as if somebody came and ripped my heart out. And I had to watch my dogs loaded into vans to go. ... I don't even know where," MacKenzie said.
MacKenzie described herself as a responsible dog owner and claimed her animals are all up to date on vaccines and are well fed and have space to be outside in a fenced-in yard.