UPDATE: Owner Voluntarily Surrenders Many Dogs [UPDATE]
A local photographer has taken photos of dogs she says are being ill-cared for, after learning about a puppy mill in New York.
Update: 07 January 2014 4:15pm The dogs' owner, Herbert Weich, has agreed to voluntarily surrender some of the dogs to the Montgomery County SPCA. He will be charged with a violation of the Agriculture and Markets Law, although New York State Police found that none of the dogs appeared to be unhealthy or in immediate danger.
Other visitors to the property have told WIBX that Weich has accepted donations of food and blankets, and has agreed to assistance, claiming that he is simply overwhelmed by the number of dogs. At least two individuals have told WIBX that Weich has already agreed to attempts to get some of the dogs adopted into good homes prior to being surrendered to the SPCA.
His cooperation does not prevent him from being charged under the Ag and Markets Law.
From New York State Police (07 January 2014):
"On December 31, 2013, State Police in Fonda received a complaint of dogs being kept outside without adequate food, water or shelter at a location in the town of Root, New York. Members of the New York State Police responded and investigated the complaint, interviewing the property owner at his Rappa Road, Sprakers address. Primitive housing, food and water were observed on the property and no animals displayed signs of distress or appeared to be in immediate danger.
As the investigation continued, and based upon the recommendations of a licensed veterinarian and consultation with the New York State Attorneys General Office, the owner of the property, HERBERT WEICH, was charged with a violation of the Agriculture & Markets Law section 353-B(2), for failure to provide adequate shelter.
A preliminary hearing was held in Montgomery County Court on January 7, 2014 to determine if Mr. Weich’s dogs should be seized. An agreement was reached and prior to the hearing, Mr. Weich volunteered to relinquish some of the dogs to the Montgomery County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals while more substantial shelters were constructed.
The New York State Police are continuing to work with the New York State Attorney General’s Office, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office and the Montgomery County SPCA as the case proceeds.
Mr. Weich will answer the Agriculture and Markets Law charge in the Town of Root Justice Court on January 13th."
Update: 07 January 2014: We interviewed Caroline Ennis, D.V.M. who visited the facility at the request of New York State Police, who said that while the conditions were not ideal, and while she is not a supporter of puppy mills, she said that conditions did not require an immediate seizure of the animals.
Full audio of the interview with Dr. Caroline Ennis is below under the portion of the post marked "Puppy Farm Controversy" in the 8:00am hour.
She says there are about ninety dogs at the farm, and the numbers alone are overwhelming, but the dogs are not in danger. She says that they did not appear to be cold. She agrees that the barrels in which the dogs are housed are not ideal, but the living conditions are not inhumane.
She cannot comment on whether the owner loves the dogs. She says that of the ninety dogs she saw she did not see any dogs that required immediate medical attention. She added that she also viewed the facility for an hour on Friday night (January 3, 2014) with a flashlight. Based on what she saw she said that she saw no immediate need for intervention. She says that the weather has been extreme, and there may be more concern as the temperatures drop, but there were no dogs in danger when she visited.
Dr. Ennis said that there is much that she cannot discuss because there is an active investigation. She made extensive recommendations in her report and is reminding the animal rights community that "we are all on the same side" here, and that everyone wants the best for the dogs. She says that the long-term consequences of what happens to the dogs has to be given more thought.
A hearing on what may happen with the dogs - and their owner - takes place today.
Our interview with Cara Marie Messina, the photographer who took the pictures, appears in the Keeler in the Morning Show Notes below:
WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning has reached out to the owner of the facility featured in these pictures. At this point they have not returned our calls.
Until they have commented, or refused to comment, we will refrain from identifying the facility. The photos included in this story were taken by Cara Marie Messina, who says that she became aware of the mill while looking for a puppy of her own.
She, and many who support her, say the photos show clear-cut neglect. Others say the dogs look healthy and that her claims are exaggerated. All are warned to use caution. The photos are, at best, inconclusive.
Cara has, incidentally, gotten a puppy. It was lab mix from a rescue group in North Carolina.
One caller to this morning's program, identifying herself as "Danielle from Orange County, New York," said she purchased a puppy from the facility in the beginning of December 2013. She says the puppy has worms and has been extremely sick.
While the dogs in the photographs looked to be in fair condition, Messina says the conditions in which they are being held are not humane. The group Lainey's Armey is involved as well, and Messina says the group is asking for action on behalf of the dogs bred and housed at the site.
The photos that appear below do not necessarily show any signs of neglect or abuse. The dogs appear to be clean and, except for the one dog with the raw nose, appear to be well-nourished.
One caller, Scott, said that a veterinarian and police officer have been to the farm and no citations were issued. Of concern to one caller, Trish calling from Dallas, Texas, is the temperatures at which the dogs were outside. It should be of note, however, that there is no notation as to how long the dogs were outside in the cold. Messina says that she did not see another structure aside from the dog houses or barrels.
Another caller, Sharon from New Jersey, said that the veterinarian is releasing more information, and she is not convinced that things are indeed ok at the farm.
Rebecca, an advocate for an Oneida County Humane Investigator in the Mohawk Valley, said caution needs to be taken when "attacking" the farm. She says there is no abuse apparent, and many of those calling for an end to the abuse have no proof that any abuse is taking place.
After looking at the photos you can judge for yourself whether there may be abuse present, or whether all of this is much ado about nothing. One thing is for certain, Messina says that the posting on her CaraMariePhotography Facebook page is getting a lot of attention. She says more than 1,100 people have shared the photos in one day since their posting.
A user on our Facebook page says that she - along with five other people - went to the farm over the weekend to offer assistance. She says that the man who owns the dogs accepted their help and is afraid to come forward because he has been receiving death threats. The woman, whose identity we agreed to withhold from this story, describes herself as "the biggest dog lover EVER," but said that while the conditions are not ideal they are not harmful to the dogs. She believes that it is possibly a case of hoarding and not neglect.