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Friday, Apr 1, 2011

County: Nye

Disposition: Alleged

Alleged: Linda Lee Smith

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

Puppy mills are places where pets are mass-produced and humane treatment often takes a backseat to profit.

Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears uncovered a puppy mill right here in Southern Nevada.

We went with a hidden camera to see conditions that have been called unsanitary, unacceptable and cruel.

It looks like a junkyard, a collection of rusted trailers, old cages and rows upon rows of chain link and aluminum siding. The name is LOLAA kennel in Amargosa Valley, about an hour and a half northwest of Las Vegas.

LOLAA stands for "Little Old Lady and Animals." 63-year-old Linda Lee Smith is that self-described little old lady.

When Contact 13 arrived at LOLAA kennel with our hidden camera we were greeted by an overwhelming odor and the sound of hundreds of barking dogs - dogs that former customers, employees and animal welfare groups say are sick, live in shockingly poor conditions and are starved for human contact.

And it's easy to see why it's so simple for a place like LOLAA kennel to operate out in Amargosa Valley.

The wide open spaces, coupled with almost no regulation in Nye County and very little oversight, make essentially ideal conditions for a puppy mill.

"It's definitely a problem here, only we are just now finding out where some of the puppy mills are," said Stacia Newman of Nevada Political Action for Animals.

Newman has been investigating LOLAA for months. She used some other hidden camera footage provided by a customer in a Senate hearing on April 6. The bill would regulate puppy mills in Nevada.

Karen Grogan, who used to work at LOLAA kennel, told senators, "The crates were full inside and out of horrible feces and urine all over them. No bedding in there. The dogs have poop squished up between their toes. The puppies had diarrhea. They were very, very ill."

When we went out with our hidden camera, we found dirty, matted dogs, their drinking water green with algae, and animals living in pens with mounds of feces so old they looked like rocks.

"You're seeing it at its worst now because my cleaner will be here in the morning," Linda Smith said to our undercover producer.

But the hidden camera video shown to the Senate was taken back in December; there's snow on the ground and it shows feces littering pens where dogs live in mud and have little shelter.

"And I can't even imagine what the animals are going to endure in the trailers," Newman said.

Smith didn't take us in to the trailers where pregnant and nursing mother dogs live in stacked cages with their puppies.

"Several times I saw her taking these dogs - these mother dogs - out when they kept barking, shaking them and slapping them across the face until their noses would bleed. And she would put them back in with their puppies," Grogan said at the Senate hearing.

She also said Smith would whip dogs to get them to be quiet. And she remembers dogs she groomed having nails so ingrown that some of their feet were blistered and bleeding.

Others had coats matted to the skin.

"There is no love in raising dogs this way and this is not the way it was meant to be."

Others at the Senate hearing relayed even more disturbing information.

"Two employees witnessed her selling dogs for dog fighting and Linda Smith knew about this," said Beverly McGrath, LVVHS and SPCA spokesperson.

Senators were told of a worse fate for the dogs Smith couldn't sell as puppies.

"She cages them up, she shoots them and dumps them into holes," Grogan testified.

She also submitted a written statement to the Nye County Sheriff's Office discussing cats and kittens being kept in a horse trailer without adequate ventilation.

Mother dogs who were whelping and unable to deliver their puppies were denied veterinary treatment and allowed to "lay there and die," she wrote.

She says she was on the premises when Smith shot two Fox Terriers, two Jack Russells, two Pekingese and four Papillons because "she didn't want them anymore. She also clubbed a Pom unconscious," the statement reads.

Grogan and many others say Smith used to sell her dogs through a Las Vegas pet store called the Puppy Patch, which is now out of business.

Authorities are now aware of all those allegations, as well as the conditions at LOLAA kennel and the week of the Senate hearing, Nye County Animal Control charged Linda Smith with ten counts of animal cruelty.

"Linda! We want to talk to you about what's going on here, will you please come out?" Darcy Spears called from the street bordering Smith's property. "We just want your side of the story."

She saw us but just went inside the bus where she lives on the property and didn't come back out.

Contact 13 did speak to Linda Smith on the phone and she said we were not welcome on her property. She didn't want to do an on-camera interview and she didn't want us taking any video.

In fact, she said if we came on the property she would call the cops.

When asked about the charges of animal cruelty, she said it was none of our business and that it was strictly between her and Animal Control. But she did claim that she lets the mother dogs out of the trailers three times a day, that she's building new kennels and that she's cleaning the place up.

She claims conditions there got bad because she got sick.

But there's another issue.

"So it was possibly $400 for the Beagle?" our undercover producer asked Smith on hidden camera.

"Well," she answered, "make me an offer I can't refuse. It's an older puppy and once they get older everybody wants the little ones."

Authorities tell Contact 13 it's a violation of state law if Smith is selling animals directly to the public.

"Buy a puppy from me. I need to sell them," she told our undercover producer.

To do that legally, she needs different licensing and proper veterinary care.

"This is not an operating kennel the way that you would think that it would be," says Newman. "And it's filthy, it's rundown and it should be shut down."

Smith has to appear in Beatty Justice Court on May 17 to answer the animal cruelty charges. She faces possible shutdown if she hasn't cleaned up her act to authorities' satisfaction.

But Animal Control says shutdown comes with a cost the county may not be able to bear. In that case, we're told Best Friends Animal Sanctuary has volunteered to rescue all of the animals.

Nevada does have a history with puppy mills.

One was shut down in Pahrump in 2005 where a woman faced 68 counts of animal cruelty. Another in Elko dates back to the early 1990s where conditions got so bad, some dogs turned to cannibalism to survive.

As for the Senate bill that would regulate commercial breeding facilities, including the 27 kennels currently licensed in Nye County, that bill passed the Senate in April and is now in the hands of the Assembly.

Case Updates

Dozens of dogs from a puppy mill at the center of a Contact 13 Investigation will be available for adoption this weekend. It's a story Chief Investigator Darcy Spears has seen through from 'hidden camera expose' to rescue.

They arrived by the dozen: Dogs who've never known anything but being forced to breed litter after litter. Now, they have a new life ahead.

Two are just puppies. One is still pregnant.

There are Yorkies, Silkies, Lhasa Apsos, Shi-Tzus, Pomeranians, Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, and Papillons.

Adopt A Rescue pet has taken them in from LOLAA Kennel in Amargosa Valley.

The puppy mill Contact 13 exposed late last month is giving up all of its dogs after owner Linda Smith was charged with 10 counts of animal cruelty.

Adopt a Rescue Pet has already gotten 28 dogs from LOLAA Kennel. They're expecting 22 more.

The dogs all appear to be very sweet. Since most of their coats are in pretty bad shape, most of them will have to be completely shaved.

A male poodle was the worst of the bunch.

"His tail is matted to his body," noted one groomer.

And his coat came off in chunks.

"We're trying as hard as we can to make them look as good as we can, but with some of them, we just don't have much of an option," the groomer said.

It's almost like a canine assembly line headed up by Elizabeth Davis-Rubin, who runs Adopt A Rescue Pet.

"Let's get you big guys out because we need your kennels," she says to a large Cocker Spaniel.

"Start on that one's nails so that Gloria can get that one going in the tub," she instructs a groomer.

Darcy Spears: What surprises you about what you're doing here, about the animals that you're seeing?

"Honestly, the most surprising thing to us here and when we were picking them up and even the veterinary office, is that the animals are friendly," says Davis-Rubin.

The groomers were also surprised at how quiet the dogs are.

That may be because of what one former employee told legislators last month at a Senate hearing on a bill to regulate puppy mills in Nevada.

"Several times I saw her taking these dogs, these mother dogs, out when they kept barking, shaking them and slapping them across the face until their nose would bleed and she would put them back in with their puppies," Karen Grogan told senators.

Grogan testified that's not all Linda Smith did to keep the dogs quiet.

"She also has buggy whips, and she whips the dogs with buggy whips to get them to shut up or go in."

The dogs we saw getting cleaned up at K-9 Barracks and Bath on North Nellis are mostly in good health despite runny eyes, skin problems, and some dental and genital issues.

"These breeder dogs, the male dogs, all they have been and done is bred and bred," Davis-Rubin explains.

Some older females have mammary tumors from dried up milk and too many litters.

But we're told they're in far better shape than many other puppy mill animals.

Linda Smith, who owns LOLAA Kennel, was in court in Beatty last week. She pleaded not guilty to the animal cruelty charges and was released on her own recognizance.

She's due back in court July 18.

The adoption event is both Saturday and Sunday from 10 am to 2:30 pm at the Petsmart in the Best of the West shopping center on Rainbow and Lake Mead.

Click here for more information on the Adopt A Rescue.

We're told the dogs will require patience, potty training and another dog to have as a friend in the home. They'll also be spayed or neutered and microchipped.
Update posted on May 27, 2011 - 9:58AM 
Weeks after a Contact 13 investigation into a puppy mill business where hundreds of animals have been forced to live under shockingly poor conditions, the woman behind the kennel went before a Nye County judge.

Rusted trailers and old cages are home to about 150 dogs living in a kennel in Amargosa Valley, about an hour and a half northwest of Las Vegas,

Contact 13 went with a hidden camera to see the conditions that have been called unsanitary and cruel.

63-year-old Linda Lee Smith is owner and operator of LOLAA Kennel, which stands for "Little Old Lady and Animals." Before answering to the charges, Smith filed a motion to keep Action News cameras from rolling on her arraignment.

But Judge Bill Sullivan at the Beatty Justice Court ruled in our favor Tuesday.

Judge: How do you plead?

Smith: Not guilty sir.

Judge: Not guilty to ten counts of animal cruelty.

Also in the courtroom was Stacia Neman of Nevada Political Action for Animals. She's been investigating the puppy mill for months now.

"The whole place was just deplorable," she says. "It was filthy, dirty, run down."

A former employee of LOLAA Kennel even testified at a Senate hearing last month about her experience.

"Crates were full of feces inside and out, all over them," says Karen Grogan. "No bedding in there. The dogs have poop squished up between their toes. The puppies had diarrhea. They were very, very ill."

Our hidden camera caught the dirty dogs being kept in pens covered in feces, their drinking water green with algae.

Tuesday the judge waived bail and released Smith on her own recognizance.

As she left the courtroom she refused to comment. But Nye County Animal Control tells Action News that Smith has agreed to retire and place most of the dogs with rescue groups that will have them spayed or neutered.

So far 50 dogs have been placed and the rest will be removed by Smith's next court date.

A pre-trial date has been scheduled for July 18. At that point, Smith will meet with the assistant district attorney and could possible reach a plea deal.

A bill that would regulate commercial breeding facilities, like LOLAA Kennel, is now being considered by the state legislature.
Source: - May 18, 2011
Update posted on May 27, 2011 - 9:53AM 


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