The Worth County Sheriff’s department has been getting calls about White Fire Kennel, a dog breeding facility on the Minnesota-Iowa border, since spring. Animal rights groups complained about overcrowded conditions and dogs without clean water.
For months, the sheriff’s department tried to get the owner to improve the conditions. Maybe give up some of the dogs at least. But new dogs kept coming, Worth County Sheriff Dan Frank says -- so quickly that law enforcement could never gain any ground.
Finally, on Monday, a search warrant allowed the sheriff’s department and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) to step in. They didn’t like what they found.
Around 170 Samoyeds -- known for their fluffy white coats and their teddy bear expressions -- were huddled in “dilapidated” kennels. There was little separating the dogs from the below-zero temperatures outside. The floors were mostly dirt, or sometimes wood, which were soaked in mud and feces. The animals’ cloud-like pelts were filthy and matted. Some were undersocialized, terrified shut-ins.
Frank has been in law enforcement for nearly two decades. This was the first puppy mill he’d ever come across. But the ASPCA has been around the block a few times. Plenty of breeding facilities cut corners in order to maximize profits, Vice President Tim Rickey said in a statement, and the puppies they produce usually end up with “health and behavioral problems.”
The sheriff’s department and the ASPCA worked to get the dogs into temporary housing in an undisclosed location, where they were given medical exams, behavior evaluations, and plenty of treats and toys.
They’re “doing great,” Frank says. The ASPCA, “like a little army,” has taken charge and has been doing “a tremendous job” taking care of them.
The investigation is still ongoing, and charges are still pending. Frank’s received a half-dozen calls from concerned owners who say they saw these terrible conditions when they went to adopt their own pets. Some had stories about the mill from three or four years ago, and were more than ready to testify.
“Bless their hearts” for their willingness to help, says the sheriff. But it would have been nice if they had been as forthcoming three or four years ago.
“People have got to report things like this.”