WDAY: The News Leader

Published July 11, 2013, 05:53 PM

Man caught hoarding 170 dogs on a rural farmstead northwest of Wheatland

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV)-- People living nearby say they are shocked and never knew that their neighbors had been hoarding all those dogs.

By: Kay Cooley, WDAY

Fargo, ND (WDAY TV)-- At this moment, veterinarians continue to examine 170 dogs taken from a rural Wheatland puppy farm.

Here's what authorities found. These stacked cages were spread through two trailers, neither had air conditioning.

There were multiple dogs in the portable cages, and they were sitting in their own feces.

Some of the dog's fur is so matted it's tough for them to walk.

Dr. Trevor Bjerke- Veterinarian: "170 dogs I've never seen this on TV before, even when you watch the TV shows they're taking 50-60 dogs I've never seen 170 dogs in one place at one time."

The owner of the puppy farm is 51 year old Darcy Smith.

Authorities say he's been cooperative. The State's Attorneys office has not filed charges as the investigation is ongoing.

People living nearby say they are shocked and never knew that their neighbors had been hoarding all those dogs.

Now they're left wondering what conditions were really like for these animals.

Right now the dogs and puppies are here at the Casselton Vet Clinic. We were not allowed inside to get any comments or video of the animals, but we did stop by the home where authorities seized them.

This rural farmstead northwest of Wheatland is where 170 dogs made their home. Now with some of their pens and cages scattered in the yard.

But people living right down the road never expected the mess that must have been hidden inside.

Ron DeTienne- Lives Nearby: "From the outside you never noticed anything. I was there years a few years ago. At that time there was maybe just a dozen or so dogs with puppies is all."

But since his visit, that number grew to more than ten times that size.

With some neighbors saying the family kept them in cages. Stored in numerous trailer homes around their property.

DeTienne: "It surprised me because I knew that there were some dog breeders in the area but I didn't realize there were that many dogs in the area."

I spoke with a woman who lives here, she would not go on camera, but tells me the dogs were her son's. She says they were all healthy and well fed, but breeding got out of control.

A manager of Pets R' Inn at West Acres says the son- Darcy Smith has been one of their occasional puppy suppliers for the last few years.

Shaun Evanson- Pets R' Inn: "It kind of raised a flag in the last month because we've gotten a few litters in over the last month, so it's just one of those things that we're shocked."

Evanson says the puppies were all very healthy, but when they recently started getting more calls from Smith. They considered even going out his property to check it out.

And after waking up without his dogs today, Smith gave the pet store a call.

Evanson: "He was honest he said things have gotten away from me in the past few weeks or maybe it's been months, you know maybe just snowballing up"

He says Smith told him some of the seized dogs had grooming issues, but were still healthy.

Evanson: "He said he was in the process of trying to make things cleaner and better out there."

But no matter the condition, Evanson says that many puppies, in one space. Is definitely something to worry about.

Evanson: "We just feel bad about the whole thing, it makes us sick, we're animal lovers. I don't know, it's just horrible."

The pet store manager told me they had even prepaid for two litters, that were most likely part of the seized group.

He says they would never have purchased puppies from Smith, if they knew how many dogs he truly had.

If you'd like to help, a fund has been set up with Bremer Bank. It's called Rover Rescue.

The dogs are not up for adoption yet. They'll all spend 14 days in quarantine before decisions on adoption are made.