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Mount Eden ‘puppy mill:’ ‘No real issues’

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

TAYLORSVILLE – Several concerned residents attended the Spencer County Fiscal Court meeting Monday night to express their concerns about an alleged Mount Eden puppy mill, asking Judge-Executive Bill Carr and the magistrates what the county is doing about the issue.

“This is a black eye for Spencer County,” Taylorsville resident Sarah Bauer said during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Elk Creek resident Veronica Brown said, according to photos of the alleged kennel circulating on Facebook and used in a Louisville television news report that aired last week, the Spencer County case appears to be worse than a recent case in Pulaski County.

“This case is more deplorable,” she said. “The animals appear to be in worse condition. … I would like something to be done for the animals, because they’re all going to die.”

The photos being circulated allegedly were taken on property owned by Laura Pope on Van Buren Road. In the photos, Siberian huskies, German shepherds and other dogs are being kept in chain-link, open-air kennels, with large plastic transportation crates or igloo-shaped dog houses for shelter, and frozen-over water bowls.

Pope, whose operates Kev-Lar Kennels, also known as Matrix Kennels, has been in the news in the past. In September 2004, she was arrested and charged with 95 counts of second-degree animal cruelty. Pope eventually pleaded guilty to one count, and most of her dogs were returned to her.

A page on a Web site for Kev-Lar Kennels described the operation as “a combination of several Siberian husky breeders. We have owned and shown Siberians for over 26 years[;] they are part of our every day life. We are known for breeding quality in temperament, movement, intelligence and beauty.”

The site goes on to state that all adult dogs are genetically tested and all puppies come with a “written guarantee.”

None of the links for contacts or other information were working Tuesday morning. An attempt to reach Pope by phone Tuesday was unsuccessful.

Later in the meeting, Karrer told those attending that he had been to Pope’s property on Feb. 10 with Spencer County canine officer Nolan Bryant after receiving an E-mail complaint about the situation the night before.

“Quite frankly, I didn’t see any real issues,” Karrer said, adding that a report that he had issued a renewed county kennel license to Pope last week was erroneous. “I don’t issue kennel licenses, and the animal control officer did not. A check has been received [from Pope for the renewal], but we haven’t gotten all the paperwork.”

County kennel licenses, by ordinance, allow kennel owners to pay a certain amount in fees rather, per number of dogs, rather than buying individual county tags for each dog they own.

Karrer said that county ordinances, at one time, established a minimum size for kennels. “The county used to require each kennel provide 200 square feet of space. “There is no minimum square-footage on that now.”

As for any dogs chained up, Karrer said there is a county ordinance that prohibits owners from chaining dogs 24 hours a day. “The best I can describe our ordinance on that, it is unenforceable because of the way that it’s worded. That’s something we would probably have to address.”

He said he felt Pope’s use of a fence line next to each chained dog was a good method “of keeping the dogs from getting wrapped up.”

Karrer admitted he didn’t know how many dogs are actually on the property. “You hear all kinds of numbers,” he said, adding that he had heard one witness had claimed to have seen a dead dog on the property. He denied that and said the only dog he saw there that looked dead actually was deaf dog didn’t move until someone came right up to it.

“We’re going to continue to investigate this situation. It is not dead,” Karrer said. “But I will not jump to conclusions and make hasty decisions on this, because it’s not right to do in the first place. And as important, I think we did that a few years ago and we lost. They got their dogs back and it cost the county $100,000.

“Does she have a lot of dogs? Yes. Would it be nice if she got rid of some of those dogs? Yep. But at this time, [with] our ordinances…I see nothing that says I need anybody to go up there and arrest that lady and confiscate those dogs. We’ve been through this before. So, we’re not going to let it die; don’t get me wrong. But we’re going to proceed judiciously. Let’s put it that way.”

Asked Brown: “If you’re not sure the total number of dogs that she has, how do you know one is not dead.”

Magistrate Jerry Davis said Pope has 105 animals: 20 puppies, 30 rescue dogs and 30 are boarded from other people. He said the rescues are “dogs that people don’t want that seem to find their way to her house. “They’re old dogs” that should would happily adopt out to other homes, he said.

“She’s rescuing now?” asked another woman in the audience.

“She told me this morning she was going to get out of the rescue business,” Karrer said.

Davis said he was sure that Pope would turn over those dogs to other rescue groups, if any came forward.

Davis said when he visited last week, “I looked at all the dogs. There’s nothing wrong. The puppies have heated water, heated dog houses.…Her kennels, every one has a big igloo in it.”

“But isn’t she breeding to make a profit,” asked another woman attending the meeting.

“No, she isn’t doing that,” Davis said.

Davis, who explained that he was the animal control officer in Spencer County for the Kentucky Humane Society for four years. During that time, he said he had been to Pope’s property and conducted “100 to 200 inspections, and I never had a single violation.”

“This is worse than the Pulaski case, and they were all confiscated,” Brown said.

“I disagree,” Davis said, adding that he had seen receipts Pope has paid for food and vet bills. “I just think she’s being railroaded, myself, because I don’t see it. … I can go to any kennel and take pictures and make it look bad.”

In a telephone interview Tuesday morning, Bauer said she attended the meeting because she believes that with the publicity surrounding the plight of stray dogs in Sochi, Russia, which were being exterminated prior to the winter Olympics.

“Now is a perfect time for Spencer County to stand up and be a leader – be known as a county that promotes animal welfare,” she said.