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Dying dogs, delayed justice -- Cruelty questions abound at Trixie Foundation

Randy Skaggs to stand trial in April
Updated: Feb. 25, 2020 at 8:43 PM EST
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Randy Skaggs, who operates the Trixie Foundation, faced 179 charges two years ago. When a WAVE...
Randy Skaggs, who operates the Trixie Foundation, faced 179 charges two years ago. When a WAVE 3 News crew showed up for a surprise visit in Feb. 2020, the scene was just like it was in 2018.(WAVE 3 News)

WEBBVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - The last time a WAVE 3 News crew showed up unannounced at the Trixie Foundation, the dogs were ankle-deep in mud, shaking in 34-degree weather, searching for dry ground, eating grass, lapping up water from mud puddles, and the man who runs the animal sanctuary wouldn’t let us in.

"Why can’t you take us in there?” we asked.

“Well, because I don’t want to,” Trixie founder Randy Skaggs said.

“How come?” we asked.

“Well, why do I have to?” Skaggs said.

Two years later, on Feb. 5, 2020, when we made another surprise visit to the Trixie Foundation in Elliott County, on another 34-degree day, it was the same, muddy story. And we were forced to interview Skaggs through a chain-link fence.

“It’s never meant to be a situation where it looks like a subdivision where you got sidewalks and manicured lawns,” Skaggs said. “You know this is not that place.”

People from all over the world donate money to the Trixie Foundation. Its web site calls it “the best-kept secret in animal welfare ... nestled beside a bubbling brook in a secluded valley ... a spiritual and emotional place of contentment and tranquility.”

“I mean you’ve seen it,” animal rights activist Julia Sharp said. “It’s muddy. This is not nestled beside a bubbling brook little haven. This is a really horrible place.”

One big difference from our visit two years ago: Most of the dogs have been moved from the original compound because Skaggs said the EPA determined the environment was being adversely affected by the runoff from so many animals. During our recent visit, they were out in a field in the wind and mud amid a couple dozen plastic dog houses.

“What about heat for the animals in the winter?” I asked Skaggs.

“You know, that was a concern of the county judge,” Skaggs said. “What we did is we bought I think 30 of these igloo dog houses. At night when the animals go to sleep, there may be 65 dogs in that building right there, where you see smoke coming out.”

“Do you have running water?” I asked Skaggs.

“Not yet,” he said. “Not here yet. See that container there? We transport water from the other facility up here.”

On March 7, 2018, Skaggs was charged with 179 counts of animal cruelty. In an unusual twist, he was allowed to keep the animals he’s accused of endangering. Nearly two years later, Skaggs is still awaiting trial and the dogs are still here that haven’t died.

“One dog’s leg rotted off,” Sharp said. “And he was refusing euthanasia for that dog, and he watched that dog dragging that rotten leg around.”

Sharp said workers who’ve left Trixie have told horror stories about the more than 70 dogs who’ve died there since the cruelty charges were filed.

“They’re reporting dogs are dying, laying in the mud, freezing, have no shelter,” Sharp said. “We were told one dog was placed inside one of the igloos after she was dead, and was left there to rot for two weeks inside one of those dog houses.”

Sharp started a Facebook page where animal lovers try to monitor Trixie.

“Our page is Stop the Trixie Foundation AKA The Gulag,” Sharp said. “I call it the gulag of despair because that’s what it is. There’s not a single happy animal out there.”

“There’s a Facebook site calling this a gulag,” we told Skaggs.

“Gulag of despair, where all the animals are living in misery and hate me and hate being here,” Skaggs said. “Well, that’s all crap. Do you see any animals look not happy? Do you see any look like they’re starving to death?”

The only ones who could really answer that were the dogs. We were not allowed in to interview them and we don’t speak their language. All we could do is videotape them through a fence limping and wet.

“Demodectic mange,” Skaggs said as he pointed to one dog that appeared to be in bad shape. “Older dogs are more prone to get demodectic mange.”

That dog may not make it but Skaggs said he’ll survive all the negativity.

“I’m pretty tough,” Skaggs said. “I’m pretty tough. My heritage is vikings. They don’t make them like that anymore, and I’m gonna hang in there because I believe what I’m doing is right.”

The prosecutor in the case did not return WAVE 3 News’ call.

Skaggs’ jury trial is now set for April 17.

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