Since May 2013, there have been several complaints to the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office (BPSO) regarding an older couple keeping up to 100 small purebred and designer mixed breed dogs on their property in rural Ragley, LA, for the purpose of breeding them to sell to the public. KPLC reports “the Beauregard Parish Sheriff’s Office disputes allegations it’s a puppy mill and has described the situation as an animal lover who let things get out of hand yet, from a neighbor’s yard, five small dogs appear from just one window and many more dogs can be heard barking.” To imply that this couple happened to take in dozens of “stray” dogs of the same breeds is ridiculous. The male dog owner told the neighbor he originally bought Yorkies to breed to make money because everyone was wanting to buy Yorkies. Apparently, the Yorkies didn’t sell and he began bringing in Maltese and Poodles and is now posting signs that he has these breeds and the designer “hybrids” for sale.
BPSO has insisted they have done their job, but ASPCA Community Initiatives Director, Laura Lanza, is disagreeing strongly with the Sheriff’s claim that he has done enough. In response to Ms. Lanza’s questions, the Sheriff’s office stated that “8 more were due to leave next week and he had checked all rabies vaccinations for every animal onsite and they were current”. However, he could not give Ms. Lanza a veterinarian’s name or tell her if he personally identified every animal onsite and matched them to the rabies certificates. While this may seem like a time-consuming task for any small parish animal control officer, it is in fact their job to inspect each dog for proof of rabies vaccination. We depend on our elected law enforcement officials to perform the job we voted them into office for. Ms. Lanza has stated that LA law prohibits anyone other than a licensed veterinarian from giving rabies vaccinations and since this would have cost a small fortune to maintain on the number of dogs at this breeder, it is unlikely this couple has had any of the dogs vaccinated at all. All of the dogs looked like their basic vet/health care and grooming had been neglected their whole lives. None of the 26 dogs surrendered to rescue groups had any proof of rabies vaccination. The LA law requires that all dogs 3 months and older have a valid rabies vaccination with tag/certificate. That alone would have been grounds to impose fines on the couple and encourage them to voluntarily surrender the animals to his animal control officer who could have then allowed rescue volunteers and the ASPCA to assist like they are begging to do. The rescue volunteers believe this situation could have been handled legally and professionally by simply enforcing the rabies vaccine laws for the state, then the couple might have realized they need to surrender all the dogs instead of facing steep fines for lack of vaccinations. Instead, the BPSO has treated the breeders like “dog lovers taking in strays and doing good deeds” and have claimed to “assist” the couple rather than “enforcing” the law when it was clear the couple refused to surrender any more dogs.
On several occasions, the neighbor to this couple allowed her son to help feed and water the many dogs on the property because the female dog owner requested assistance. The teens reported horrendous conditions inside several mobile homes and travel trailers on the property that were housing the dogs. There is no air conditioning in the trailers and only open windows and fans to cool crowded dogs. The teen reported that the smell inside the trailers was “disgusting” and almost vomited on several occasions. The neighbors have reported that they believe the couple lives in unsanitary conditions because they live among the numerous dogs inside the trailers, which then raises the question of “why have the couple’s family and friends allowed them to live this way?” It is common that backyard breeders will isolate themselves from loved ones and friends because their property has turned into a puppy-making factory and they keep as many dogs as possible to make as much money as possible. So breeders and hoarders in those types of situations cannot keep up with the cleaning needed to keep the environment sanitary and healthy.
The only progress made by the BPSO has been when the the female owner agreed to surrender 22 dogs to the BPSO single animal control officer, Deputy Nick Smythe, who is new to this position and at one point told rescue volunteers he has never dealt with a situation like this and had to “look up the laws”. It’s common for rescue groups to partner with animal control agencies to “pull” adoptable dogs from the shelters and get them fully vetted and adopted to loving, safe homes, so a rescue volunteer assisted him when he went to pick up the 22 dogs and multiple non-profit rescue organizations in south Louisiana took in the 22 dogs to begin their rehabilitation. Also, a few days later, Deputy Smythe was allowed to remove a larger female dog and her 3 puppies that were severely infested with fleas and ticks and those dogs were immediately taken in by a Beauregard Parish rescue group. And that is where the BPSO thought their duties were fulfilled and no longer pushed for the dog owners to turn over more dogs. Rescue volunteers were told that “the case was closed due to no criminal activity found and lack of resources” to take in large numbers of dogs, however, Laura Lanza states that she has offered to facilitate any resources needed to evaluate and care for the dogs if seized from the property.
KPLC’s Theresa Schmidt visited the property on August 13, 2013 in hopes of getting the breeders to speak to her and give their side of the story. One car was in the driveway and the reporter attempted to get the dog owner’s attention to speak to her but she never came out of her mobile home. The story aired by KPLC on August 13, 2013 can be seen at www.kplctv.com however the BPSO did not appear on air. Instead, Joe Toler of the BPSO sent a written statement to KPLC:
“It can be reported that the BPSO has been working diligently with local agencies to assist in reducing the number of dogs at the address in Ragley…The remaining dogs have been found to have been provided with shelter, food and clean drinking water as per local ordinances. We will continue to provide assistance. Anyone who would like to help by adopting any of the dogs can contact the BPSO at 337-463-3281 and we will forward your information.”
First of all, the BPSO doesn’t have custody of any of the dogs from this breeder in Ragley. The 26 dogs surrendered have all been turned over to rescue organizations. As any educated citizen knows, just because the sheriff is claiming to be “assisting” with downsizing the numbers of dogs, it doesn’t mean his office has done much at all that is visible to concerned neighbors, residents of Beauregard Parish, rescue volunteers, and national animal welfare groups. The only thing we have continuously seen is a lack of concern about the suffering of the dogs, and even the humans, in this case. By refusing to intervene in this situation, Sheriff Moses has sent the message that enforcing animal cruelty laws are not at the top of his priority list. In fact, after the first 22 dogs were surrendered, the sheriff informed rescuers that he had “closed the case”, suggesting that he had no interest in further discussion or investigation. And the neighbor to the breeder continued to complain about the intense smell of dog excrement that she smells when she walks out of her home everyday, the noise of the dogs’ constant barking, and the potential contagious illnesses on the breeder’s property. The neighbor and other nearby residents of Beauregard Parish began contact every animal welfare organization they could find to assist in this breeder situation where too many dogs are living in crowded and unsanitary conditions.
This is what is known for a fact: the original 22 surrendered Maltese had no proof of rabies vaccination, all were severely matted, most had ear mites, all had fleas and ticks, one had “giardia” a conagious parasite, some had tapeworms and heartworms, all of which are preventable conditions. In addition a tiny 2.6 lb female Maltese died after undergoing surgery to remove her uterus due to “Pyometra”, a severe and painful infection in dogs that can be deadly. So this little dog suffered with an infection that the breeders were unaware of, and who knows how many more of the dogs are also suffering from unknown diseases and infections because the breeders do not take them to a veterinarian.
This will take citizen action to be resolved. If you are a citizen, voter or taxpayer in Beauregard Parish, we hope that you will make your voice heard. The dogs you saw in the video that are frantic at the window really tells it all. Can we at least raise our voices to keep this front and center to our ‘elected’ officials? This will be a situation that the Lake Charles Dog Rescue Examiner will be following closely and reporting back to local citizens. To see Louisiana’s Animal Cruelty laws, click here, so you will know when and how to report animal cruelty that you witness. Please “Be Their Voice”! For information on puppy mills and backyard breeders, visit www.aspca.org.
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