More than two dozen frail adult dogs and puppies were found along a rural Doddridge County road, and authorities are looking for whoever left them there.
Humane officials believe someone operating a puppy mill dumped the small, purebred animals, which included Chihuahuas, pugs, Chinese cresteds and "chiweenies," a Chihuahua-Daschund mix.
Debbie Moyers, manager of the Ritchie County Animal Shelter and county humane officer, said the dogs were found June 3 by a mother and daughter.
The women were driving along Sugar Run Road in Doddridge County just after noon that day when they came across dozens of dogs huddled in the middle of the road. Moyers said the women rounded up 21 of the animals and brought them to the Ritchie shelter.
Moyers said shelter workers went back to the site to search for more dogs and found 10 along the road. One was found dead a mile or more away on a dirt road.
"They were just huddled together in the road out in the boonies," Moyers said. "They were terrified."
Doddridge County sheriff's deputies and State Police are investigating but have made no arrests and named no suspects.
Deputies have not been available for comment, but State Police Cpl. J.A. McDougal said officers were trying to contact people who have submitted tips.
"At this point we are still gathering facts," McDougal said. "We are still in the beginning stages, and there are no specific suspects at this point."
He said rumors about the animals' origins have been flying all over the county and officers are following up but so far nothing has been proven.
McDougal planned to meet with the deputy assigned to the case to combine efforts.
In the week since their rescue, one of the 31 dogs has died. The rest, including several that are pregnant, are on the mend. Five have been sent to foster homes to recuperate.
The dogs range in age from pup to senior and were found in frail condition with long nails and cases of mange. Moyer said they appeared to be "just no longer good for breeding."