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Monday, Jan 29, 2007County: Barry
Case Images: 2 files available
» John Jones
» Suzette Jones
Case Updates: 2 update(s) available
A couple who are breeding hundreds of dogs a year could lose their permit to have a kennel behind their home.
Barry County animal control officers already have destroyed 85 dogs taken from the home of John and Suzette Jones. Officials said they still have about 232 dogs, including 82 puppies, on the property. They're only permitted to have 140 adult dogs, meaning they have about 10 more than they're allowed.
Until they reach four months, the puppies are not counted under provisions of the permit issued by the county.
"When you are mass breeding, that is not a business, that is a puppy mill," said Pam Beckwith, chief animal control officer for the county. "A puppy mill is an enormous amount of dogs on one property and that is a violation of the special-use permit."
The Joneses run Oakwold Kennels on two acres of property just north of Hickory Corners. They breed primarily Jack Russell Terriers and estimated they sell 350 puppies a year to customers across the Midwest.
"We have Jack Russells all over five states," Suzette Jones said. "We love our dogs as our children and we have a hard time trying to part with them."
The dogs sell for between $100 and $200 each and the couple said they screen buyers and sell only to individuals.
John Jones, 57, a former dairy farmer, said he's been a fan of Jack Russells since 1983 and began breeding the dogs 14 years ago.
"They are great working dogs and they are so much fun," he said.
The couple also has some New Guinea Singing Dogs, Border Collies and Shiba Inus.
In 2004, the Barry County Planning and Zoning Commission agreed to increase the number of dogs permitted on the property from 50 to 140, Beckwith said.
But the number continued to grow and, when the Joneses moved some of the dogs across the road to his mother's farm, someone complained and the county said the couple were violating their special-use permit.
County officials inspected the kennel on Jan. 29 and took dogs to be euthanized.
"It was a day I will never forget," John Jones said.
Beckwith said Suzette Jones asked that the dogs be taken because they could not be sold.
"They were kennel dogs and not placeable," Beckwith said. "That is the worst part of the job."
"We did not go in and begin to grab them," Beckwith said. "There was no warrant to pick them up. If they had not voluntarily given them up, we would have left."
Undersheriff Robert Baker said the problem is that the Joneses "just keep breeding them. They say they are selling them but the dogs are not that popular. The husband and wife just love puppies, so they keep breeding them. There are dogs and dogs and more dogs but there is no consideration for the animals."
Baker said the animals are healthy, fed and watered and have shelter, so there is not an issue of cruelty.
But Beckwith said there are too many dogs for anyone to give them the attention they need and there is not enough demand to have so many Jack Russell Terriers.
"And where is it going to stop?" she said. "Fifty wasn't enough and 140 wasn't enough. They are like collectors. They love the puppies and they keep breeding and breeding them."
Suzette Jones said the couple will attend a county zoning board hearing March 12 and expect to have only the number of dogs permitted at that time.
"We have healthy, beautiful dogs and we want to keep our kennel. We love our dogs," she said.
|John Jones was arraigned March 13 on the misdemeanor, which followed his refusal to negotiate with authorities who are trying to limit the number of dogs kept on his 2-acre farm in Hickory Corners.|
The county's Planning and Zoning Board on Monday said it could try to revoke his special breeding license after he and his wife, Suzette, opted against negotiating the number of dogs they keep, which are mostly Jack Russell terriers.
In January, Barry County Animal Control euthanized 85 of the more than 300 dogs the couple kept. They had called because they had too many dogs and needed help, authorities said.
The wife was not charged, a court official said.
|Source: Kalamazoo Gazette - March 16, 2007|
Update posted on Mar 25, 2007 - 12:34AM
|It started with a call for help.|
There were too many dogs, some were sick, and the county had taken notice.
Still, John and Suzette Jones say they don't understand why Barry County Animal Control euthanized 85 of their Jack Russell terriers Jan. 30.
"They didn't even try to place anybody," a tearful John Jones said Thursday. "They euthanized everybody."
Animal control officers said there was no hope for the dogs.
They said most taken from the couple's Hickory Corners breeding operation had severe mange, a parasite that can eat away fur and makes the skin rough like leather.
"In good faith, really we did those animals a favor," said Pam Beckwith, the county's chief animal control officer.
She described the situation as appalling. "That was a very somber day here. It took its toll on me and my staff."
The Joneses and animal control officers agree Suzette Jones asked for help a day or two before Jan. 30.
The couple had nearly 300 dogs -- mostly Jack Russells -- at their home on 2 acres. Their breeding license allows 140 dogs.
The county had sent a letter a few weeks earlier, informing them they were in violation for having too many dogs and illegally moving some of them to a new location without proper documentation.
The Joneses say they needed animal control's help to place the extra animals. They acknowledge they signed over ownership of the dogs, but said they were under the impression some could be saved.
Beckwith disagreed, saying it was made clear to the couple that the mostly older dogs would have to be put down.
"They were very aware," Beckwith said. "This was at their request. They're the ones that overbred and went over their numbers."
In Barry County, it's up to a team of animal control officials to decide if an animal will be euthanized.
In the Jones' case, it was a necessity, Beckwith said. Besides parasites and other health problems, the dogs weren't socialized, she said.
"These animals were not adoptable," Beckwith said. "If I sent you home with something that had tried to bite me, I think you'd be upset. I think you'd want to know why someone hadn't evaluated them."
Mike Humphries, a retired animal specialist and humane educator for the Humane Society of Kent County, agreed with Beckwith.
Humphries, who owns his own animal behavior consulting firm, said the Jones' dogs may well be beyond help.
"Considering the numbers, there is no possible way those dogs can get the attention that a social animal needs," Humphries said. "I don't see any possible way they can properly socialize those puppies."
He added while it may sound cruel, euthanizing the dogs may have been the kindest thing.
The Joneses now worry their breeder's license may be in jeopardy. They have a hearing March 12 before the county planning and zoning board.
"They've made some pretty severe statements that they might revoke the license altogether," John Jones said.
Losing their license would kill their business, Oakwold Kennels, which supports the family by selling about 300 puppies a year.
Area animal groups are calling for limits on the Joneses breeding license.
Volunteers from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Southwest Michigan offered to take some of the dogs Thursday, but the couple declined, saying they believe they were trying to be shut down.
"That is not at all true," said SPCA President James Di Loreto. "We're not trying to shut down a breeder. We're trying to encourage responsible breeding."
Di Loreto said the SPCA has tried to help the Joneses in the past, but things soured in 2004 when it and other animal groups tried to block them from expanding their license from 50 to 140 dogs.
Overbreeding was suspected back then, he said.
Still, the offer to help is still open, Di Loreto said.
Sometime next week, Beckwith will go back and do another count of the Jones' dogs.
At last count on Feb. 20, the Joneses had 150 adult dogs and 82 puppies. Puppies don't count as part of the number of dogs allowed under a license.
The couple plans to place 10 dogs before the next count, putting their operation at the legal limit.
"We want to go to that hearing saying we've complied," John Jones said.
|Source: Grand Rapids Press - March 2, 2007|
Update posted on Mar 12, 2007 - 5:58AM
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