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Published July 12, 2013, 09:51 AM

Wheatland owner of 170 seized dogs says he's cooperating

WHEATLAND, N.D. (AP) — The owner of a Fargo-area puppy mill said he is cooperating with authorities following a raid in which officers seized 170 dogs that they said were being kept in filthy, cramped conditions.

WHEATLAND, N.D. (AP) — The owner of a Fargo-area puppy mill said he is cooperating with authorities following a raid in which officers seized 170 dogs that they said were being kept in filthy, cramped conditions.

Darcy Smith, 51, told The Forum that he is cooperating with law enforcement, but he declined to comment further on Wednesday's raid on his breeding operation near Wheatland. Smith has not been charged with anything, although Cass County prosecutors were reviewing the case.

Authorities said the dogs, which were from small breeds such as Shih Tzus, Maltese and Yorkies, were being kept in kennels that were stacked three deep, sometimes with five animals to a cage. Some of the kennels had 5 inches of feces piled inside, Cass County Sheriff's Capt. Mitch Burris said.

The dogs ranged in age from 5 days to 13 years old, and some were pregnant. They were taken to a veterinarian in Casselton, where they will be kept under quarantine for two weeks.

Aside from being underweight, the dogs' conditions were better than expected given the conditions they were held in, said Dr. Trevor Bjerke, a veterinarian at the Casselton clinic. However, the animals were lacking basic care such as grooming, vaccinations, and treatment for ear infections and dental problems, he said. Cass County prosecutor Tanya Johnson Martinez said that some of the dogs' fur had become so matted that it restricted their movement.

Fargo pet store owner Shaun Evanson said he bought dogs from Smith but did not know about the alleged poor conditions on Smith's property. He said he will not buy from Smith anymore.

"We all love pets," Evanson said. "This breaks our hearts."

It will "take an army" to care for the dogs, Bjerke said. The sheriff's department has established a drive called "Operation Cass County Rover Rescue," to which residents can donate through any Bremer Bank location. Smith would have to go to court to get his dogs back.

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