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Owner of property in Hanover animal abuse case dies. What comes next?

Animal control received 160 calls since 2019 about Hanover property before dead animals found
Posted at 11:23 PM, Sep 01, 2022

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- The man connected to a Hanover property where officials found decomposing animal corpses and skeletons has died.

An obituary indicates that Dr. Franklin Ewing passed away over the weekend.

According to an incident report filed with the search warrant in Hanover County Circuit Court, Ewing's son told animal control officers that his dad was in the hospital when they found the animals.

In August, Hanover officials found dozens of dead animals on Ewing's property on Mattawan Trail in Mechanicsville. Both the property and Dr. Ewing were no strangers to officials.

Animal control said they received 160 calls since 2019 about the property. Neighbors told CBS6 they made calls about the overloads of animal feces, no food and broken gates allowing animals to roam the streets freely.

ALSO READ: Why Hanover doctor still had animals after judge ordered him not to

Ewing had also been charged on a number of occasions in Hanover, Caroline and Henrico Counties with inadequate care of an agricultural animal, livestock running at large, and cruelty to animals.

Prior to the August incident, Ewing had also been ordered by a judge in May to never own livestock animals again in the Commonwealth. However, Dr. Ewing appealed the case, allowing him to keep the animals until his pending court date in September.

The incident report from August reveals that officers were called to bring in his roaming animals when they found the dead animals.

Officers wrote that they saw freshly dead sheep, multiple bags of bones and a rotten decomposed corpse that appeared to be of a sheep.

Officials seized 10 pigs, seven goats, four sheep, two horses, one mule pony, two cows and 59 chickens.

CBS6 reached out to legal expert Todd Stone to learn what Ewing’s death may mean for the potential animals still in his possession on different properties.

“If the animals are deemed to be abandoned then that’s one reason where they could be impounded or if they are treated cruelly,” Stone said.

Animal control or the state veterinarian will give a notice to the Commonwealth’s Attorney, owner or owner's family in this case for a hearing.

Following the hearing, a judge will make a decision on whether the animals can remain properly cared for on the property or if they need to be removed, Stone said.

“The code seems to envision lots of different situations including a situation where the owner would be deceased. This is not one I would expect to fall through the cracks and have the animals uncared for,” Stone said.

The Hanover Sheriff's Office provided the following statement about the situation:

Thank you for sending your email about the passing of Dr. Ewing. All the animals that were seized on August 9th, have been transferred to localities who had homes or rescue for the animals besides the chickens which are still in our care. We are holding the chickens until at least Sept 15th to monitor for any illness.

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