A now-former animal rescue group failed its mission, according to Loudoun County Animal Services officials who removed 102 animals from the homes of two Luck of the Irish Animal Rescue leaders on Feb. 16 and 17.
The animals removed from two Dundee Court homes in Round Hill were 28 cats, 70 dogs, two parakeets and two rabbits, according to Nina Stively, animal services director and a humane law enforcement officer. Stively said Luck of the Irish took in animals from rescue groups or shelters in Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, Texas and West Virginia.
Kimberly T. Hall and Nicole Metz, directors of the rescue, haven’t been charged criminally — the seizure process is a civil matter, not a criminal one. Stively said department officials will be meeting soon with the Loudoun County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office to discuss whether criminal charges will be filed. A hearing will be held on the civil seizure matter involving Metz is scheduled for April 8, 2024, according to Loudoun General District Court clerk’s office.
A search warrant affidavit said Metz, the former group’s executive director, admitted importing animals without required veterinary inspection certificates. The affidavit, written by Deputy Chief Humane Law Enforcement Officer Angela Chan, said some of the imported animals had a “contagious disease.” Stively said three of the dogs removed from the homes of Metz or Hall, the group’s operation’s director, had to be euthanized.
“It’s an ongoing and messy situation,” Stively said. “A large percentage of the animals that were received required medical care.”
Chan wrote that her agency was contacted Feb. 16 by the sheriff’s office. Deputies had responded to Hall’s home about an occupant having a “medical event.” The deputies said they found 20 dogs crated in “filthy conditions.” Stively said her agency only removes animals from homes if there’s an “immediate threat to their life, health, or safety.”
Chan wrote that 12 cats and 20 dogs were removed from Hall’s home. She said Hall told her some belonged to her children and the remainder belonged to Luck of the Irish, which was formerly known as Paw & Hoof Animal Rescue.
Chan wrote that Metz, who lives next door to Hall, arrived at the scene on Feb. 16 and said she was trying to find foster care providers to take the animals if they couldn’t remain with Hall. Metz described Hall as “overwhelmed” and suffering from a “mental health crisis,” according to Chan.
“Metz stated that Ms. Hall told her she fostered animals out to other providers, but she believed that Ms. Hall was keeping them,” Chan wrote. “Metz commented on Ms. Hall’s mental condition and relationship history and cursed Ms. Hall repeatedly for putting her in this position.”
Chan wrote that Metz said she only kept her personal pets, her father’s dogs, and one Luck of the Irish rescue dogs in her guesthouse. She said Metz initially refused to allow the guesthouse to be inspected, but after entering and exiting the guesthouse with trash bags several times, Chan said Metz let her in. Two cats and seven dogs were in the guesthouse, according to Chan who said Metz identified three of the dogs as group rescue dogs.
When Chan returned with a search warrant for the home on Feb. 17, she said Metz admitted she did keep animals in the home and said it was cluttered because the family was preparing to move. Upon entry, Chan said Metz told her “just take them all” and “I can’t take it anymore.” Chan said there were several dogs in crates and others roaming around the first floor.
“The home was cluttered throughout with stacks and piles of belongings and it did not appear that the volume of belongings were being packed. Rather, the conditions in the residence were more consistent with hoarding as, in several areas, belongings/refuse were stacked several feet high,” Chan wrote. “We observed several crates that lined the hallway off the entry [and] in the kitchen and living room containing dogs of varied age, size, and condition. We navigated through small paths of open floor space, over baby gates and around the piles of things scattered through the residence toward another room on the ground level where several cats and dogs were confined.”
Chan said Metz later admitted she took animals from Hall on Feb. 16 and “scrambled to set up crates to hide the animals” so they wouldn’t be taken by Chan. During the removal, Chan said Metz became “overwhelmed” by the barking of the dogs and screamed at them at least three times to stop. Chan said Metz later chose to surrender dogs the county planned to seize.
“Ms. Metz since admitted to your affiant that she was aware conditions inside Ms. Hall’s home were deplorable and she continued to receive animals into Luck of the Irish Animal Rescue and house them at Ms. Hall’s residence,” Chan wrote. “Ms. Metz admitted to importing animals into the commonwealth of Virginia without required certificates of veterinary inspection. Some animals were imported into the commonwealth of Virginia with a contagious disease.”
Chan added that Metz lied to animal services about how she acquired some of the animals and denied care to some who veterinarians had examined and recommended treatment for. She said that as of March 19, Luck of the Irish continued to post animals for adoption and solicit donations on their website.
Hall didn’t return a request for comment. After inviting the Loudoun Times-Mirror to view conditions in her home, Metz cancelled the interview on May 19 saying her attorney was unavailable due to a death in his family. However, she defended herself in a phone interview and in emailed replies to questions from the Times-Mirror.
Metz said in the interview that the 10 dogs she owned have been returned to her by animal services and “there’s no hoarding situation” in her home. She said complaints about Luck of the Irish are coming from “the agenda of a group of people who have targeted us.” She wouldn’t say who the people are.
“Whenever animal control comes out, they try to make everything look bad,” Metz said. “And we were targeted by people who don’t like us.”
Metz said in the email that Luck of the Irish was formed in December 2021 as a volunteer-based 501©(3) with eight unpaid board members. She said the group took animals from shelters which would’ve otherwise euthanized them and was able to place 300 of them in the approximately one year they were active.
The group didn’t have a brick-and-mortar shelter, but Metz said animals were kept at three homes with a combined 18 acres of property until they could be adopted. She said the adoption process was comprehensive to ensure animals got good homes.
Metz said the shelters the group took in animals from provided up-to-date records and the group used Blue Ridge Veterinary Associates in Purcellville, Reiss Mobile Vet in Bluemont, and VCA Southpaws Veterinary Specialists & Emergency Center in Fairfax County to treat the animals. She said group members spent far more on the animals than the donation money the group received.
“We took in some very sickly animals and spared no expense for their medical care once they were part of our rescue,” Metz wrote. “Our love/compassion for animals and making a positive difference in their lives never kept us from helping the animals that truly needed it when no else cared.”
Debbie Henry, founder of Animal Angel Aid, a 501(c)(3), and Pawtectors, an anti-animal cruelty education program for youths, praised Hall and Metz in an email. She said she witnessed their love of animals while assisting them in community adoptions events. Henry said Luck of the Irish was a “stellar, highly respected group” that adopted most of their animals from “high-kill southern shelters.”
“They invested tens of thousands of their own personal money for the care and expenses of all their rescue animals prior to their adoptions. I would personally trust any of my personal and adoptable animals with them,” Henry wrote. “They always put the health and well-being of rescue animals first.”
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