SOMERSET — Animal-protection activists removed more than 40 dogs Tuesday from a substandard breeding operation in Pulaski County where many had been living in filth.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) took the dogs to a shelter in Louisville.
They will be checked, treated and, if necessary, socialized to be around people before being sent to other shelters and made available for adoption, according to a news release from the ASPCA.
The man who operated the facility, Dennis Bradley, agreed to surrender the dogs as part of a criminal case against him, said Detective Glen Bland of the Pulaski County Sheriff's Office, who investigated.
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Bradley, 61, pleaded guilty to second-degree cruelty to animals. The plea deal included a six-month jail sentence, probated over two years, during which Bradley will not be allowed to operate a breeding facility or have more than four dogs, Bland said.
Bradley operated a business called Dream Catcher Kennels in western Pulaski County, which the ASPCA described as a "puppy mill."
He sold dogs, but also claimed to have a rescue operation, Bland said.
Many of the 43 dogs he had were confined to small cages where they lay in their own waste, and some had untreated medical problems, said Kathryn Destreza, an official with the ASPCA.
Some were in a building, but others were housed outside in the cold, and there was not adequate food or water, Destreza said.
"People who run facilities like this are interested in making a profit, not in the well-being of the animals," said Destreza, director of investigations for the organization. "As is true for most puppy mill dogs, these dogs appear to have gone most of their lives without basic necessities or much exposure to humans."
Bland said it was apparent Bradley had affection for dogs, but just kept far more than he could properly care for.
"There was no way that he could support this many animals," Bland said.
Bradley had more than 20 of the animals in the house; the conditions for him were rough as well, Bland said.
The case started about a year ago, after the local animal shelter received complaints about conditions at Bradley's facility and called the sheriff's office.
Bradley had 60 or 70 dogs at the time. Bland took the 18 most in need of medical attention to the local shelter — two of them had to be euthanized — but not all the dogs were in bad shape, he said.
Authorities left the rest of the dogs at Bradley's kennel at that time. One reason was that Bradley said he would cooperate and allow the dogs to be adopted, Bland said.
Another was that if police had taken all the dogs to the county shelter, the bill to care for them while the criminal case was pending would have been tens of thousands of dollars, Bland said.
But Bradley later stopped cooperating and, after some improvement at the kennel during the summer, conditions deteriorated again in cold weather, Bland said.
The ASPCA, alerted by media coverage of the case, called local authorities and volunteered to help remove and care for the dogs. The Kentucky Humane Society is helping with the case.
The collaboration between ASPCA and local authorities "enabled our agencies to save these dogs from certain demise," Sheriff Todd Wood said in a news release.
Bland said the county should be grateful for the ASPCA's help. Tuesday's rescue ultimately will cost the organization an estimated $65,000, Bland said — a cost that would have torpedoed the local shelter's budget.
Destreza said some states have a law under which people can be required to post money to care for animals taken from them while a cruelty case is pending, but Kentucky is not one of them.
The state also lacks regulations governing commercial dog-breeding facilities, she said.