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Town of El Paso continues eyeing potential kennel policy

Yellow labs seized from an alleged Pierce County puppy mill are now avaialble for adoption through the Animal Humane Society. (photo courtesy of Animal Humane Society)

Beginning this week, dozens of dogs found in squalor-like conditions at a Pierce County breeder’s home became available to new owners.

Pierce County Corporation Counsel Attorney Bradley Lawrence announced last Thursday that 68 labrador retrievers seized from a suspected puppy mill in the town of El Paso were available for adoption on July 25.

A spokeswoman for the Animal Humane Society said the dogs were turned over to the organization July 17, but first needed to be spayed or neutered. The first group of dogs will were available for adoption beginning at noon on Monday.

Dogs up for adoption will be listed online as they become available at the website animalhumanesociety.org/labs.

The announcement followed civil court proceedings in June that transferred ownership of dogs belonging to Stuart West to Pierce County.

West, charged with 125 misdemeanor crimes stemming from the conditions discovered by authorities at his Alma Bottom Pointing Labs operation, was also ordered by the court to cover the cost of custody, care and treatment of the dogs.

The dogs, which fed on rotting carcasses on West’s property, were found in April by Pierce County investigators living in cramped, urine-soaked crates and in rooms without proper ventilation, according to allegations in a criminal complaint.

Pierce County authorities were assisted by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, an organization that termed West’s operation a puppy mill.

The incident raised numerous questions among county and town officials about the inspection process and how West’s alleged puppy mill was allowed to proliferate.

The El Paso Town Board met July 11 to discuss possible changes to its dog-kennel ordinance.

Town Chairman Ronald Kannel said the board determined it can’t prohibit commercial kennels. He said would-be commercial kennel owners would still be able to file a conditional-use permit through Pierce County.

What the town will likely do, he said, is require twice-yearly inspections to be conducted by a veterinarian — or someone qualified to inspect commercial kennels. Kannel said the town board is likely to approve that change, but first must establish what the inspector’s requirements must be, how much those services cost and who should shoulder the cost of the inspections.

Meanwhile, the seized dogs are poised for new homes through the Animal Humane Society. According to a news release, people interested in adopting the dogs can call the humane society in Golden Valley, Minn., at 763-489-2201 or visit www.animalhumanesociety.org.

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