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What do you get when you combine glamorous fashion models with cute dogs rescued from un-glamorous puppy mills?

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Tuesday, 21 October 2008 20:00

CAPS Helps Prevent Return of Seized Dogs to Pick of the Litter

CAPS Helps Prevent Return of Seized Dogs to Pick of the Litter

Inhumane Manitoba Puppy Mill had Contract with the Notorious Minnesota Broker

Authorities seized 90 dogs and 10 puppies on July 24, 2001 from an unlicensed puppy mill in Steinbach, Manitoba, 50 miles from Winnipeg. Employees from the Winnipeg Humane Society found dogs with skin lesions, open sores on their paws, parasites, ulcerated eyes, and hernias. A number of the dogs were elderly, and many of them had uterine and mammary infections. Three of the seized dogs - a poodle with a massive inguinel hernia, a Dachshund with a uterine infection and a Great Dane with complications arising from spay surgery (suspected heart condition) - subsequently died. Seven Poodle mix puppies were born about three weeks after the raid. Criminal cruelty charges have been brought against the Hieberts.

Walter and Marlene Hiebert obtained their dogs under a contractual arrangement with Kathy Bauck, a breeder/broker who owns Pick of the Litter in New York Mills, Minnesota. For each adult dog she conveyed to them, they were to give her a certain number of puppies. Once the initial dogs were "paid" off, Ms. Bauck was going to pay the Hieberts cash for the puppies. Ms. Bauck sold these puppies to pet shops in the U.S. Ms. Bauck went to court in Manitoba in an attempt to recover the dogs she claimed belonged to her. Manitoba Agriculture Minister Rosann Wowchuck ruled against returning the seized dogs to Ms. Bauck. According to Vicki Burns, the executive director of the Winnipeg Humane Society, CAPS' documentation on Pick of the Litter was the primary reason Ms. Wowchuck decided that the dogs would be better off in adopted homes. The Winnipeg Humane Society found homes for all of the dogs.

Ms. Bauck told a Winnipeg Free Press reporter who visited her facility that she met the Hieberts six years ago when they pulled into her yard. She and Ms. Hiebert eventually became friends. "I could just tell this woman loved animals,'" Bauck stated. "I could tell she was a naturalist, animals just cling to her." Ms. Bauck said she knew of Mr. Hiebert's prior convictions, but believed he had changed. She visited the Hiebert's farm in Steinbach but didn't see a finished facility for dogs. Ms. Bauck claimed that "she has rescued dogs from actual puppy mills where they were being raised in tiny mink cages." She insisted that she does not operate a puppy mill, "no matter what the 'animal assholes' and humane societies say." Ms. Bauck, a born-again Christian, said, "I supply love. I raise love. I raise companions. Yes, I do it for a profit. I have 12 people working for me. We love what we do."

Pick of the Litter's February 2000 USDA inspection reports listed an inventory of 673 adult dogs and 409 puppies. The USDA inspector, Dr. Catherine Hovancsack, whom CAPS is investigating for fraud, found no non-compliances. CAPS has received a number complaints from pet shop customers whose sick puppies were bred and/or brokered by Ms. Bauck. Several Pick of the Litter employees complained to the local humane society about cruel, inhumane conditions and improper recording keeping, such as bogus AKC paperwork.

This was not the first time the Hieberts have run into problems with the law concerning their treatment of animals. In 1997, a judge convicted Mr. Heibert of cruelty and gave him a sentence of four months. He was prohibited from owning and breeding dogs for two years. Mr. Heibert was fined $500 in 1995 for causing unnecessary suffering to animals.

Ms. Burns accompanied provincial government veterinarians to the Heibert facility shortly before the raid. She saw dogs living in wire-floored cages or mud pens filled with feces. A crate of Chihuahuas was in an unused outhouse. She observed a number of malnourished animals. During this visit, the humane society seized a pregnant St. Bernard because she was too emaciated to walk.

Dr. William Rose, a veterinarian in Perham, Minnesota who has worked closely with CAPS, told the Winnipeg Free Press, "She [Kathy Bauck] pulls this sort of thing all the time, Rose said. "But if those are her dogs, then she's responsible for them and is liable for the mistreatment of them." Rose cited a similar case in 1992 that went to court in Minnesota. The Baucks had a contractual arrangement with Patricia and Lori Nelms of Wadena, Minnesota. The Baucks loaned 22 adult dogs to the Nelms with the understanding that the Baucks would receive two puppies from each female dog and one puppy from each male dog. The court initially awarded the dogs to the Baucks but reversed its decision after Dr. Rose appealed directly to the judge.

After the raid, CAPS provided extensive documentation and the names of interview sources to the Winnipeg Sun, the Winnipeg Free Press, CBC Radio and CBC-TV. The Winnipeg media initially found information on Kathy Bauck and Pick of the Litter on the CAPS website. The Winnipeg Free Press quoted CAPS president Deborah Howard on Bauck's facility: "Those dogs are being raised like livestock." said Howard. "They're breeding machines. What she's doing isn't right." In September, Ms. Burns conducted a one-hour interview with Ms. Howard and Liz White, director of Animal Alliance of Canada on "All About Animals, a program Ms. Burns hosts on CJOB-AM. For the second half of the show, Ms. Howard and Ms. White took on Robert Church, the public relations coordinator for Petland Canada. They urged listeners to stay away from pet shops and to adopt unwanted animals from shelters and rescue organizations.

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Deborah Howard

Deborah Howard

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If you purchased a sick or dying puppy from Barkworks or Happiness is Pets, you may be able to join consumer class action lawsuits. The first step is to fill out the CAPS complaint form.

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