Florence County woman charged after puppy mill bust


FLORENCE COUNTY, S.C. (WPDE) - Donna Keller Lee, 70, is charged with one count of animal cruelty in connection with 133 dogs that were removed from her property in the Effingham community, according to a copy of the citation in the investigation.

WPDE obtained a copy of the citation through Freedom of Information.

Lee was scheduled to appear in court this week, but that hearing has been postponed to February, according to officials with Florence County Environmental Services.

The dogs were removed from Lee’s property last month. The citation says Lee was charged on Nov. 29.

The animals are being held at an undisclosed location.

Florence County Environmental Services Director Herbie Christmas said the animals had all sorts of health problems and one had to be euthanized. Some others remain in guarded condition.

Renee Graham said she bought her teacup Yorkie, Sadie, from Lee back on May 28.

Graham said Sadie was a 10-year wedding anniversary gift from her husband.

She said she got some upsetting news when she took Sadie to the veterinarian for her first visit.

"Sadie had to hospitalized. We had her for two weeks, and she had to be in the hospital for six days -- high fevers, seizures,” said Graham.

She said she contacted Lee but essentially got nowhere.

Graham said, from there, it was visit after visit to the veterinarian.

"Horrible -- I mean, Sadie weighed 1 pound 4 ounces. To see something so tiny not walk. She went blind. She couldn't see. She would walk in circles, just around in circles. She would yell out, screaming in pain. She couldn't eat. At the end, she got to where she couldn't hold her bowels.”

Graham took to social media chronicling Sadie’s daily suffering.

"I've wanted the community to see what type of puppies this breeder was selling. I wanted them to see up close and personal the pain that these puppies were in, what they were suffering. It was ridiculous.”

By July 14, Sadie had to be put down.

"The day that we had to finally euthanize her, the vet said that there was nothing else that we could do. Her other organs were starting to shut down. You get this puppy and you fall in love with this puppy from the moment you put it in your hands, almost like an infant or a child, and then you're helpless."

She said she tried for seven long months to file a complaint against Lee and to have it thoroughly investigated.

Graham finally got some relief more than a week ago when Florence County Environmental Services removed the dogs from Lee’s breeding operation.

"My main concern was getting this breeder shut down. Getting the rest of those puppies out of there so they did [no longer have to] suffer and get the medical care that they needed. Because I knew that Sadie wasn't the only one. I will see this to the end, full circle. I will be standing in that courtroom when she goes to court. I will stand there,” said Graham.

The investigation is still ongoing.

In the meantime, a Charleston-based rescue, Valiant Animal Rescue and Relief, has taken the more than 130 animals into custody.

close video ad
Unmutetoggle ad audio on off