Forty-eight Labrador retrievers were rescued from a facility in Wisconsin that one sheriff called “disgusting.” The dogs’ owner was charged on Tuesday with 117 criminal counts while operating a puppy mill on his property.
The ASPCA reported that all the dogs seized were yellow Labradors. They included 35 adult dogs and 13 puppies. All were transported to Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley Minnesota, where they will all receive medical treatment.
The dogs’ owner, Stuart Earl West, 68, was brought before Pierce County Circuit Court with 21 counts of intentionally providing improper animal shelter space, 48 counts of intentionally providing animal shelter ventilation, and 48 counts of intentionally failing to provide food for an animal.
All 117 charges are misdemeanors.
According to the Grand Forks Herald, West pleaded not guilty to all charges. At a preliminary hearing, Pierce County District Attorney Sean Froelich requested a $48,000 signature bond. The amount, he said, was “symbolic of the 48 dogs” removed last week from West’s property.
— TODAY’S TMJ4 (@tmj4) April 24, 2016
Pierce County Circuit Court Commissioner Jorv Gavic approved the bond amount and conditions, prohibiting West from having any animals. West asked if he could keep one dog on the property for the sake of security, but Gavic reiterated the order.
“There will be no animals.”
The dogs were living in squalid conditions indoors, jammed into travel crates with no food or water.
Authorities were notified by a potential customer who went to the kennel to buy a dog and then filed a complaint with the sheriff.
The sheriff took some officials from the Wisconsin state agriculture department when visiting West’s home on March 28, and officers documented what they saw.
Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove said that during the visit, they noticed one large crate with three full-grown dogs inside.
“That kind of caught our attention.”
Following the initial investigation, officials worked on acquiring a warrant while the ASPCA was contacted.
— Grand Forks Herald (@gfherald) April 28, 2016
Hove said that the dead bodies of 10 adult dogs were found in a barn on the property, and there were more carcasses allegedly buried in the back yard.
“It was disgusting. I don’t know how else to put it.”
The dead dogs’ bodies were sent out of state for autopsies.
In a report on the incident the ASPCA dubbed the home a “puppy mill.”
Kathryn Destreza, director of investigations for ASPCA Field Investigations and Response, said that breeding dogs are often abused and neglected.
“What we saw here is no way for a dog to live. The puppies at breeding facilities are sold for profit, but many people don’t realize that their parents are often kept there for years, subjected to incessant breeding and usually lacking basic care and socialization, resulting in a very poor quality of life.”
Wisconsin has been the focus of much puppy mill activity in the past, but Hove said it doesn’t happen often in Pierce County.
“When we are made aware of any animal cruelty issues we do the best we can to investigate and hold accountable those responsible. This case started with a complaint from a concerned citizen who was appalled by the conditions these animals were exposed to. Deputies responded to the complaint and determined the allegations had merit. Citizens are encouraged to contact law enforcement when they are made aware of these situations so they can be addressed accordingly.”
A preliminary hearing in the case is set for May 26.
The dogs will not be placed up for adoption for the time being, as they are being held as evidence.
[Image via Zuzule/Shutterstock]