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Puppy mill raid sheds light on lack of regulations

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The raid of a Lake County puppy mill last week drew attention to Montana’s lack of dog breeding regulations.

The Lake County Sheriff’s office obtained a warrant to search LDR Kennel on Dublin Gulch Road after receiving at least three complaints. The most recent complaint reported a terrible odor coming from the kennel and a dog with matted fur, reeking of urine.

A veterinarian and an assistant checked more than 120 dogs, resulting in the seizure of 11 that needed medical care.

Owners Larry and Nadine Latzke were charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty.

Later, seven dogs were returned to the kennel, despite the outcry from members of the public who were willing to adopt the dogs.

“We can’t adopt these dogs,” Lake County Sheriff Don Bell said. “LDR kennels are the owners of the dogs and … the court will decide where they go when the case is completed.”

The remaining dogs were left in the care of the kennel pending the County Attorney’s review of the case, which is still under investigation.

According to LDR Kennel’s website, the owners have been raising quality puppies for more than 25 years, describing their kennel as “state of the art” and offering “quality at a reasonable price.”

Montana’s laws don’t limit the number of dogs a breeder can raise, nor do they clearly define who is a breeder.

In 2013 House District 51 Representative Mary MacDonald introduced HB 439, the “Montana Commercial Pet Protection Act” to the Agricultural Committee. The bill would have ensured that commercial pets bred, sold or made available for adoption in Montana are healthy. The bill included inspections of dog breeding facilities and outlined standards of care for feeding and watering while collecting fees from breeders to offset inspections.

“The ag committee was very leery of the regulations,” MacDonald said.

The bill failed. MacDonald reintroduced it again in 2015 as HB 608, this time in the Department of Labor and Industry oversight committee. Again, it failed.

“It got into the committee very late,” MacDonald said. “There wasn’t enough time to absorb this new concept. It’s a good bill, it really is.”

Representative Dan Salomon remembers the bill and understood what it was trying to do to protect animals, but “there were issues and questions that needed answers we didn’t have.”

Yet he supports the concept.

“I’d definitely like to see a bill like this have an opportunity to work better ... so these issues can be dealt with in a more expedient manner,” Salomon said, referring to the search warrant executed on the local puppy mill. “Right now, it isn’t perfect.”

Salomon said it is not uncommon for a bill to take a few sessions of revamping before it is passed.

Public outcry has been emotional on social media as compassionate folks offer to help, but a more factual approach is necessary, according Jill Simpson, director of the Mission Valley Animal Shelter.

“We have minimal laws to protect animals in Lake County, but that is what we have to go by,” Simpson said. “We have to be patient and let the law do what it can.”

The positive thing, said Karen Duty of Life Savers Animal Rescue, is that the lack of regulations has come to light.

She witnessed the compassion of the Lake County Sheriff’s Department toward the puppy mill dogs during the search.

“Let them build their case, so we can use this in a positive way for the betterment of the long run,” she said.

Both women agree the best defense is to stop buying puppies from puppy mills. Duty said she will also encourage legislators to take action.

MacDonald, who is running for a Senate seat, wants to introduce the bill again, although her term in the House has expired.

“I think that the incident this week validates and underscores how badly it is needed,” she said.

Life Savers Animal Rescue will hold a community information meeting Monday, Aug. 8, at 7 p.m. in the Mission Bay Clubhouse to share information about fostering cats and dogs, and how to be of help to their organization.

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