Minnesota kennel operator charged with keeping dogs in hot, cramped and dirty condition

  • Article by: PAUL WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 30, 2013 - 9:25 PM
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Photos from a dog breeding operation in Pine River, Minn., where 133 dogs were seized.

Photo: Animal Humane Society,

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 The operator of a northern Minnesota kennel has been charged with a long list of crimes that accuse her of keeping many dozens of dogs in wretched, stifling conditions on the hot summer’s day when the animals were seized by authorities.

Deborah B. Rowell, 60, of Pine River, was charged Monday in Cass County District Court with eight misdemeanors and one petty misdemeanor covering everything from animal neglect to deprivation of shelter, ventilation, shade and water.

The complaint stems from the July 16 seizure of 104 grown dogs and 29 puppies from the kennel on the eastern edge of Pine River by the Animal Humane Society, with the assistance of the Sheriff’s Office. Another dog was found dead in a doghouse, having been there for some time, the Humane Society noted.

According to the criminal complaint:

• Many dogs — some of them large breeds — were packed in doghouses and runs.

• Some of the houses were not elevated properly to keep the dogs and their bedding from getting wet and muddy.

• Drinking containers had dirty, greenish water. One bucket had a dead mouse floating on the surface.

• Temperatures in the kennel at large and the dog houses were “extremely high” and lacked proper ventilation and shade.

On the hot and muggy day that the dogs were seized, the temperature in the dog houses ranged from 91 to 97 degrees, the complaint continued.

Questioned at the scene about the heat and poor ventilation at the kennel, “the defendant stated that ‘the girls’ must not have opened the door,” the complaint read.

Rowell was charged by summons and remains free ahead of an Aug. 19 court date.

Soon after the dogs were seized, Rowell’s attorney, Stephen Grigsby, vigorously defended his client on several fronts, contending that the investigation is part of a politicized effort to bring about state regulation of the dog-breeding industry. Operations such as Rowell’s are federally inspected and licensed.

Rowell also runs a horse-riding stable in Pine River. There have been no allegations of cruelty in connection with that operation.

Rowell posted on the stable’s website, on a page that is dedicated to the dog-breeding operation, that “I take much pride in my dogs and puppies. They are raised with much love and lots of care.”

She said she raises and sells many breeds, among them Labrador and golden retrievers, Shelties, Siberian huskies, German shepherds, Rottweilers “and several designer breeds.”

Paul Walsh • 612-673-4482

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