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Top 10, No. 3: Dog breeder saga brought raft of convictions

Stuart E. West, shown during his October 2017 trial, was convicted by a jury of about half the 125 misdemeanor crimes he faced. File photo

An Elmwood-area man's dog breeding practices landed criminal convictions this year and he's not through with the court system yet.

A jury in October convicted Stuart E. West of 62 counts — mostly related to failure to provide proper food and drink, along with eight convictions for animal mistreatment. He was acquitted on 15 counts of improper animal shelter space and 48 counts of improper ventilation for the dogs.

West was sentenced in November to 26 days in jail, three years on probation and a stipulation barring him from owning, possessing or training dogs for five years.

Still unresolved is a misdemeanor bail jumping case against West, filed in September 2017. According to a criminal complaint in that case, witnesses reported seeing West in a truck with another man and a dog — a violation of his bond conditions at the time that prohibited him from being in contact with dogs. The complaint states West was scouting land for a dog kennel at the time.

That case is set for a Feb. 6 pretrial conference.

West's Alma Bottom Pointing Labradors facility came under scrutiny in April 2016 after authorities conducted a raid there. Pierce County sheriff's investigators, along with officials from animal rights groups, turned up living conditions that a state inspector later called the worst he'd ever seen in Wisconsin. Dogs were found two and three to a crate inside West's house, where dog feces and urine was prevalent. Officials learned during the search that the dogs' food source was roadkill and dead cattle.

The October trial included testimony that West had told law enforcement officials he was breeding bomb-sniffing dogs for the federal government. That claim was brought to light in November when a former U.S. Homeland Security department official came forward to RiverTown Multimedia. He described how he was courting West to participate in the Transportation and Safety Administration's Canine Breeding and Development Center. The former official said he was initially enthused by the Alma Bottom dogs' ability to point at a great distance, but he was later turned off upon learning West was feeding his dogs decaying roadkill.

Still, he said, "Stu's dogs could have been helpful."

Forty-eight dogs were rescued by the sheriff's department, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the American Humane Society.

Among those placed with families were one adopted by a Milwaukee-area couple and one taken in by a Chicago-area woman.

"He's always going to be loved," Chicago-area resident Kathy Bicek said of her dog.

Mike Longaecker

Mike Longaecker is the regional public safety reporter for RiverTown Multimedia. His coverage area spans St. Croix and Pierce counties. Longaecker served from 2011-2015 as editor of the Woodbury Bulletin. A University of Wisconsin-River Falls graduate, Longaecker previously reported for the Red Wing Republican Eagle and for the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau. You can follow him on Twitter at @Longaecker

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