ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BRENDA CONYERS
A judge ruled Thursday that the 144 Australian dogs taken from the Karole Lindgren family March 12 will remain with the Kansas Animal Health Department and not be returned to the Lindgren family.
The decision was made after nine hours of testimony and videotapes during an administrative hearing in Marion Wednesday and Thursday.
Lori Karhs, assistant attorney general, directed the prosecution on KAHD’s behalf. John Johnson, Hillsboro, was the court-appointed attorney for the Lindgrens.
When the proceedings began, the judge made the purpose of the hearing clear:
(1) to determine the health, safety and welfare of the dogs;
(2) to investigate possible violation of Kansas licensing laws;
(3) to determine if the animals should be returned to the Lindgrens or remain in the care of KAHD.
In his opening statement, Johnson said he would attempt to show that if the dogs were returned to the Lindgrens, they would face no danger of not being fed or watered. But he acknowledged the over-crowding issue might need to be addressed.
The State of Kansas has several categories for animal licensing, including hobby breeders, retail animal sales, animal pound and shelter, and boarding and training.
Each category has its own specifications, requirements and application for licensing.
The Lindgrens had no license. Karole Lindgren testified she was confused by the requirements and guidelines and wasn’t sure which license to apply for.
But Kahrs produced letters written by Lindgren to KAHD that stated she was below the limit of dogs required for licensing, planned to stay below that limit, and that she did not plan to breed dogs.
In another letter, Lindgren questioned whether the licensing requirements could be a violation of animal owners’ civil rights.
In a KAHD telephone memo dated Sept. 28, Lindgren reportedly said she had been advised by her attorney to apply for the boarding-and-training license.
Later in the hearing, Johnson said Lindgren did not, in fact, have an attorney Sept. 28, and had not acquired the services of one until the court appointed Johnson.
Lindgren said it was her intention to have an attorney with her when she filed for a license in Topeka. She said she feared her application would be denied because of a prior animal-abuse conviction in Chase County.
Pat Herrington, KAHD animal facilities inspector, testified that she made eight visits to the kennels-six in Chase County and two in Marion County.
On one visit, Herrington said Lindgren denied her the right to conduct an inspection. Several other times she visited the property and was told Lindgren was not home and other family members did not want the responsibility.
On one visit, Herrington said she found the driveway blocked with barriers, and another time the driveway was blocked by a large truck.
After receiving a search warrant March 12, Herrington went to the kennels and carried out the inspection.
“The premises did not pass inspection nor came close to passing,” she said.
A KAHD official had taken a 30- minute video sometime Monday, showing the dogs living in all areas of the property, including inside the house.
The tape showed scenes from inside the house: crates with fecal material dried on the outside; dogs peering through crate doors; workers helping a dog who appeared to have difficulty walking out of a kennel that was later determined to be four inches too small for the dog; several dogs in a single crate; a crate with the front gate taped with duct tape and a dog looking out; and a number of puppies, about 12 weeks old, in a puppy cage.
Outside of the house, the video tape showed dogs in mud-filled pens with no protection, except for one crate for four adult dogs.
Dead dogs were shown in the metal building, along with what appeared to be thick, dried fecal material and wetness on the building floor.
Four pens were inside the building, one holding 29 dogs. None of the animals appeared to have any identification or a collar.
Some dogs were videotaped sitting in an empty food bowl, which was the only dry area inside the pen.
The Lindgrens made a 15-minute video tape of their basement, and of the KAHD official taping outside.
Scenes in the basement showed dogs inside clean crates sitting on a clean floor.
Lindgren said the KAHD did not videotape the entire area, but covered the same area repeatedly.
Both Karole Lindgren and her daughter, Kena Lindgren, said once the seizure began, they were told to stay in the living room of their home and were not allowed to feed, water or exercise the dogs.
They also said the family had been ill the previous couple of weeks and had not been cleaning the premises the way they usually do.
Kena Lindgren testified she and her mother had taken about 20 dogs to a dog show in Hillsboro March 9-11. They came home sometime after supper on Sunday, cleaned some of the dogs, and exercised, fed and watered all 144 dogs before going to bed at about 2 a.m.
Paul Grosdidier, veterinarian for the state, outlined several primary concerns:
n Too many dogs in crates. Some dogs were not able to lay down unless the other dog remained standing.
n Lack of sanitary conditions. Grosdidier said dangers exist when a dog with any type of wound lies in fecal matter. He said this could cause serious infection.
Parasites were also a problem in such an environment. Dogs ate food off the floor, which was covered with one to three inches of compressed feces.
He said the dogs in the muddy pens had no dry place in which to lie or stand, and the mud was a mixture of dirt, feces and urine.
n Keeping dogs in crates that were too small for them. Dogs were unable to fully stand inside some crates. He said these conditions stressed the dogs.
The 12-week-old puppies found inside the house appeared to have had the tails docked recently; the normal time for tail-docking is when puppies are two to three days old. At that age, the nervous system is not fully developed and the procedure is less painful than when the dog is older.
Grosdidier said five of the puppies had tail infections, which the Lindgrens should have noticed by sight and foul odor.
Five dead dogs were found. Grossdidier testified the carcasses had been cannibalized by the other dogs in the pens.
Of the five, he could only determine the cause of death for two of the dogs.
One dog had a crushed trachea with teeth marks around it, indicating the dog had been in a fight.
The second dog also had been in a fight, and had sustained “severely mauled muscle-damage” injuries. Due to some signs of healing, Grossdidier said the dog probably survived the initial fight, but without medical care, developed infection and died as the other dogs gnawed it.
The Lindgrens denied knowing about the death of two or three of the dogs.
When Johnson asked Grosdidier how he knew the dead dogs had been cannibalized, the doctor said muscle had been pulled off the bone, as if eaten. He said dogs do not usually eat other dogs unless they are hungry.
Asked if another type of wild animal could have entered the building and eaten the dogs, Grossdidier didn’t think it was likely. With all but one of the dead dogs inside a metal building, in pens without gaits, it raised doubts that another animal could have made it inside.
Grosdidier said the dogs appeared to have a compatibility problem that was not being addressed. A number of dogs had scars, indicating dog fights, and several had injuries to the eyeballs that had caused the eyeball to shrink within the socket.
Many of the dogs taken from the Lindgren place tested positive for whip, hook and round worms. Some dogs had all three types.
One male dog, found lying in a small crate with feces and urine covering the floor, was taken in for emergency care. He was given a condition rating of 2. A 10 indicates a healthy condition. Besides an infection, the dog was severely dehydrated and malnourished.
Kahrs reported the costs of care for the dogs to date was $6,787.25.
Johnson told the judge there were too many dogs to be cared for, and requested that at least some of the dogs be returned to the family. He said the dogs are the “life” of daughter Kena, who trains and shows them.
Kahrs was concerned that once the dogs inside the house had fulfilled their show obligation, they were put out in the building.
The judge said it was “an all or nothing” decision. He would not consider returning some of the dogs.
On Thursday afternoon, Johnson stated the family was not a part of the “Posse Comitatus,” as had been rumored through the community.
The judge quickly stated he did not want to discuss the issue because it had nothing to do with the care for the animals.
Testifying in her defense, Karole Lindgren said they did not keep dogs in crates that were too small because posture was important to judges and the overall health of the dogs. She said someone else put the dogs in wrong cages.
Kena Lindgren said she loved the dogs very much, and would do whatever was needed to have at least part of the dogs returned to their home.
When Johnson asked Karole Lindgren why there were so many dogs on the facility, she said it was because they rescued dogs found injured along the road, and she “just couldn’t put any down,” even when the number of dogs increased.
The family stated they only sold a few puppies, but Kahrs submitted information from two different Web sites the family maintained for Crown Haven Kennels, offering puppies and stud service, as well as ads in newspapers and the High Plains Journal.
She also showed business was conducted under the name of Karole Lindgren and Carol Phillips, Lindgren’s maiden name.
During his closing remarks, Johnson said he disagreed with the “all or nothing” position of the judge, and that he wasn’t really sure what started this episode.
“It looks like maybe you took all the dogs to punish them,” Johnson said, because they did not get the required license.
Johnson agreed to work with the family if the dogs would be returned, helping them with licensing and meeting necessary regulations.
In his decision, the judge called the care of the dogs “pathetic” and didn’t approve of the injured dog that was “left to die slowly while being gnawed on by other animals.”
He said if Kena Lindgren was truthful about the way the metal building had been cleaned Sunday night, and it was still found in such unsanitary conditions Monday, that the family is unable to care for the dogs, or else she was lying.
Total control of the dogs was given to KAHD and the costs of the care assessed to the family.