More than 350 animals were removed from a Catawba County, North Carolina property and their owner arrested and charged with manufacture and trafficking by possession in a poppy field discovery.
The animals, which were discovered Tuesday in Claremont, included 358 dogs, cats, and chickens. While the poppy plants were being seized from a Poultry Road farm, deputies noticed several chickens with unusual wounds on their backs and notified Animal Control officials. A search warrant was obtained and officials returned to the farm on Wednesday.
According to officials, many of the animals appeared injured with open sores and missing feathers or sick and had signs of neglect. Forty dead animals were also discovered in pens and cages. It’s believed the chickens may have been used for cockfighting.
The animals were taken to a secure location and are being examined and tested for diseases that are considered a public health risk. They’ve been fed and hydrated and all steps are being taken to ensure the public’s health. A press release stated they’ll be available for new homes once they’re deemed healthy.
Cody Xiong, 37, of Hickory was taken into custody and charged with manufacture and trafficking in opium. Catawba County is working with the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Catawba County Animal Services. Catawba County Sheriff’s Office is discussing whether more charges will be made against Xiong and it’s unknown whether others who live at the residence have been charged. Xiong has since been released on $45,000 bond.
The poppy seizure is estimated at $559.5 million ($200 per gram). This is up from the original estimate of $500 million. It’s believed the poppies were being harvested on the property and shipped out for processing. North Carolina General Statute 90-90 (1) (c) establishes the opium poppy as a schedule II controlled substance, making possession illegal. Investigators reached out to horticulture experts prior to the seizure. Samples were later tested to confirm they did seize the opium poppy and not another species.
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said on April 18, as reported by Breitbart News stated
“It’s the highest number of drug-related deaths our country has ever seen. It’s more deaths than the peak of the AIDS epidemic in 1995. In a single year, we’ve lost nearly as many Americans to drug overdose as we lost in battle in World War I. Almost as many as was lost in 12 years in Vietnam. And that’s just overdose deaths. That number—as high as it is—says nothing about the long-term health damage to our citizens who survive, to say nothing about the human misery, the families ripped apart, and the extremes of crime and violence inherent in the illegal-drug enterprise.”
Animal advocates hope Xiong will face additional animal cruelty charges. If not, the felony drug charges should put him in prison for a long time. No information is available at this time on where the dogs and cats are (they may be at Catawba County Animal Shelter) or when they’ll be available for adoption. Once information on them is released I’ll update this article.