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Rescuers honored in Louisa hoarding case

Posted on Thursday, April 12, 2018 at 10:37 am

Veterinarian Melinda McCall worked with Louisa Community Animal Response Team during a massive rescue effort in November.

Standing before an attentive group of Louisa County High School veterinary science students, Donnie Embrey recounted the disturbing scene when he went to a farm on West Old Mountain Road last November.

There were hundreds of animals on the property, some in cramped cages, others lying ill on the ground. Many needed medical aid, or at least food and water. But most responded quickly to their rescuers.

“Within 24 hours these animals were coming around,” Embrey told the students as he showed them images of the goats, geese, guinea pigs and various other creatures found at the scene. “Their color started coming back. The only thing was, the chickens weren’t used to being around people. I can’t tell you how many times I got bit by them.”

Embrey was soon immersed in one of the largest animal hoarding cases in state history. Some 530 animals of 17 different species were seized by the Louisa County Sheriff’s Office and brought to a makeshift shelter at the fairgrounds in the town of Louisa. As the leader of Louisa Community Animal Response Team, Embrey helped coordinate what turned out to be a 22-day rescue operation.

Embrey and others who volunteered their time to care for the animals have been sharing their stories around the state. The Louisa CART team and Dr. Melinda McCall, owner of Louisa Veterinary Service Inc., spoke at two recent conferences where they were honored for their efforts.

The Virginia Federation of Humane Societies gave its president’s award to CART at its March 23 conference in Charlottesville, while McCall received the veterinary service award. McCall estimates she gave 80 to 100 hours of time as the veterinarian on call for the hoarding case.

“There were just a lot of things that had to be done,” she said. “Once you’re on call for one of those things, you’re locked in. You kind of have to see it through because it’s a criminal case.”

Clara Collier, the 77-year-old who owned the farm, agreed to a sentence in Louisa General District Court of community service in exchange for giving up the animals. Louisa County Commonwealth’s Attorney Rusty McGuire said Collier didn’t intend to hurt the animals, but was clearly unable to properly care for them.

CART was also honored in February at the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association’s conference in Roanoke as a “friend” of that organization, while McCall was named veterinarian of the year.

This is a partial article. You can read the full article in the April 5, 2018 issue of The Central Virginian on newsstands now, or subscribe at

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