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MOUNT EDEN – Laura H. Pope, who operates Matrix Kennels and Kev-Lar Kennels in Mount Eden, says she is an animal lover who works hard to care for the 105 animals on her 111-acre property off of Van Buren Road.
Pope explained her ex-brother-in-law, Kevin Bailey, owns the kennels and that she is the kennel manager. In an interview at her property on Feb. 21, Pope said a news report that aired in mid-February on WDRB-Ch. 41 in Louisville, describing her kennel as a puppy mill, was false.
She said the report was based on unauthorized photographs taken by a former employee with whom she had a falling-out last year. The news report, as well as photos used in the report and posted on Facebook by Anne Noni-Muss (or “Anonymous”), went viral on Facebook, touching off a firestorm of angry comments from people around the country.
“What really upsets me is that even the news has told the lies,” Pope said. “The news reporter [from WDRB Fox 41 in Louisville) has never been here. They took photos from [others]. They have created a mob mentality. None of those people [on Facebook] have been out here. They don’t know.”
Pope said she retired from breeding her own dogs and said most of the dogs on the property belong to friends who breed show dogs. She denied a request to photograph any of the dogs, citing confidentiality concerns.
She said only 10 to 15 litters are bred at the kennel each year. Each time a litter is born, the owners of the parents take the puppies they think they can show; Pope said she sells or adopts out the rest, and said she pays taxes for the puppies she sells. She said none of the puppies leave with their buyers until they reach 8 weeks old and have had two of the required three rounds of vaccinations and boosters.
Pope said all of the puppies are wormed and all the dogs on her property have tested negative for heart worm.
She has a permit from the state veterinarian that allows her to administer rabies shots.
A state spokesperson verified the presence of the permit and said it does not allow Pope to give rabies shots to anyone else’s dogs and explained that the owners of any dogs sold or adopted out from Pope’s kennel must be vaccinated by a licensed veterinarian so the owner can obtain a rabies tag for the animal.
She said she never has sold puppies to a pet store and says all the American Kennel Club-registered breeding adults have been genetically tested, as is required by AKC of any kennel breeding a high number of litters by registered dogs.
Spencer County Magistrate Jerry Davis, who was present at the interview, provided copies of a Sept. 7, 2013, compliance report by an AKC inspector that showed the kennel and its operations met AKC’s standards.
Under the field agent’s signature is the notation: “The AKC does not approve, license or endorse anyone engaged in selling purebred dogs. Any notation of ‘In Compliance’ on this inspection report only denotes that the customer inspected at least met the minimum standards for AKC compliance on the date of inspection.”
Pole would not allow an inspection of her entire property — she said she was concerned about safety because of a barn on a neighbor’s property that had been severely damaged by a wind shear the week before — but a visual assessment gave the impression that most of the kennels were visible from the main entrance.
Visitors’ shoes are sprayed with Clorox to prevent anyone from inadvertently tracking in disease. Along the driveway was evidence of careful landscaping. Spray bottles of cleaners hung on the chain link.
The kennels — and dogs in them — appeared clean. The few that growled at visitors, Pope said, were dogs that had been victims of abuse.
Water troughs were filled; electricity was available to heating units to keep the water from icing over, as well as for heat lamps and heating pads in the igloo-shaped dog houses in the pens where young puppies are kept.
Adult dogs are kept in 10-by-20-foot kennels, housing one or two dogs each; puppies are kept in 20-by-30-foot or 20-foot-by-36-foot kennels, she said. Each of those had at least four puppies inside.
Along the bottom of some kennels was electric-fence wiring. Pope said that is a low-voltage system to keep the dogs from destroying the chain-link fencing and possibly escaping the kennels, as well as to keep some dogs at a distance from each other.
She said males can get aggressive with each other, particularly when females are in heat.
From a distance, the dogs – even the dozen or so German shepherds and Belgian malinois kept on long chains along the perimeter of the kennel area – appeared healthy. Most of the chained dogs had either igloos for shelter or houses built from open-slat wooden pallets with either pickup-truck caps or other materials used as roofs.
Denise Witt, who befriended Pope two years ago when she and her husband adopted two Siberian huskies from the kennel, was at the property on Feb. 21 to lend Pope moral support during the interview with the Magnet.
She said anytime she has visited the property, it has always been clean and the dogs well-cared for.
“She’s the hardest-working person I’ve ever met,” Witt said. “She gets no vacations, no days off, and spends every penny on food for the dogs. She’s not living in luxury.”
To read a longer version of this story, visit www.spencermagnet.com