Case Snapshot
Case ID: 7158
Classification: Neglect / Abandonment
Animal: dog (non pit-bull)
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Monday, Oct 31, 2005

County: Morrison

Disposition: USDA Citation

Person of Interest: Wanda McDuffee

Case Updates: 2 update(s) available

Happy Trails Kennel, a dog kennel that houses 800 dogs near Randall in Morrison County, has been warned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture that it is not in compliance with the Animal Welfare Act.

Darby Holladay, USDA spokesman, said Wednesday that dog kennel owner Wanda McDuffee received an official warning letter in November. He said during its last inspection, USDA inspectors found that the housing and the size of the enclosures for the dogs were not in compliance.

He said the enclosures for the dogs must be at least six inches higher than the tallest dog. He also said the dog kennel did not meet the requirements for the floor space the dogs need.

"There were too many dogs in the enclosures and they couldn't move around freely," said Holladay.

Holladay said all dog kennel owners must follow USDA regulations for veterinarian care, sanitation, nutrition and housing needs. He said one unannounced inspection is done annually. He said if there are issues more inspections are done.

Holladay said it appears that since the dog kennel opened in 2001 that this has been the only time it has not been in compliance.

Morrison County Administrator Tim Houle said when the county board approved the conditional use permit in 2001 for McDuffee a condition was placed that the kennel must be licensed by the USDA. Houle said if the USDA suspends or revokes her license she would not be in compliance of the county permit and the county would discontinue the permit. Houle said the county could suspend the permit indefinitely because McDuffee failed to meet the terms of the permit.

This USDA complaint has not been the only strike against McDuffee's dog kennel. In 1998, the American Kennel Club suspended McDuffee from registering any of her dogs with the club for 10 years, said Lainie Cantrell, AKC public relations director. Cantrell said McDuffee was fined for knowingly submitting false litter registrations.

"She will not be able to register her dogs until 2008 with the AKC," said Cantrell. "Ten years is a fairly common fine for false paperwork."

McDuffee's dog kennel has been exposed to media attention after McDuffee's ex-husband, Gary McDuffee, was awarded a conditional use permit on Jan. 10 for a dog kennel for up to 600 dogs in Belle Prairie Township in Morrison County.

Animal activist groups from around the country are opposed to Gary McDuffee's dog kennel and they are letting Morrison County know about it.

Houle said of all the Internet petitions, e-mails and calls he has been receiving this past week on Gary McDuffee's future dog kennel, most of them continue to be from outside the Morrison County area and many are not from Minnesota.

"It's a whole new world out there," said Houle. It's democracy at its best and it changes the degree to having a local issue, he said.

"I'm not saying Internet petitions are a good thing or a bad thing. It's good that people from all over are interested in this issue, but what I worry more about is what the people from around here are concerned about. They are the ones who have to pay for it if there are any implications."

Houle said if the Morrison County Board reverses its decision and withdraws McDuffee's dog kennel permit, McDuffee could sue the county for the expenses he incurred after he was granted the permit. Houle said if this happens and the county loses, the financial burden would fall on the local taxpayers, not the people opposing the dog kennel from around the country.

"I can't really say what expenses he has incurred until after he would sue us," Houle said. "I do know that he closed on the purchase of the farm from Harvey Block. I don't know the purchase price, but a typical 40-acre farm with outbuildings could reasonably be expected to go for $150,000. He may have also contracted for building materials and there may be issues of lost income."

Houle said at this time the county board has no plans to discuss the dog kennel permit.

"There are proper venues through the courts to challenge the county board's decision," said Houle. "We respect the rights of all citizens to avail themselves of that right. If the courts determine we did something incorrectly, we will gladly correct it."

Houle also commented about the "Stop the Puppy Mill in Morrison County" petition that is circulating on the Internet against the dog kennel and how the animal rights activists are asking the FBI to investigate the county board's vote approving the permit.

"I'd invite the FBI, the pope or whoever to look at the board's decision because the allegation is absolutely absurd," said Houle.

Houle said one of the allegations is that Bill Block, the county board chair, has connections with Harvey Block, the man who sold the land to McDuffee. Houle said Bill Block told the board in the beginning of the permit process that Harvey Block is a distant cousin and he doesn't know him so it should not be a problem for him to vote on the permit.

"Bill has been a commissioner for 24 years and he has the highest integrity," said Houle. "He was honest in the beginning and said there were no connections and that it would not be a conflict of interest."

Houle said a few local people were opposed to McDuffee's dog kennel in the beginning and concerns were addressed. He also said Wanda McDuffee's dog kennel, a kennel Gary McDuffee also used to co-own, has never had any complaints from local residents since it was built.

Gary McDuffee's dog kennel will be southwest of the Belle Prairie Town Hall off Morrison County Road 263 on a 40-acre parcel. McDuffee plans to breed toy, miniature dogs, such as cocker spaniels and Yorkshire terriers. He then will sell them throughout the country. McDuffee intends to start construction of the dog kennel this spring.


Case Updates

A scheduling hearing will take place in the McDuffee/Nelson case on May 10 at 1:15 p.m. at the Morrison County Courthouse.

The case centers around the permit, granted to Harvey Block, by the Morrison County Commissioners, allowing Block to build a 600 dog kennel on the property located in Belle Prairie Township. The permit was granted Jan. 10.

Block then sold the land to Gary McDuffee who previously owned and operated a kennel in the Randall area. The permit, which was approved for the plot, traveled with the sale of the land.

The proposed kennel drew opposition from people across the county, the state, the nation and even the world. The kennel has also prompted McDuffee's nearest neighbors, Roger and Debbie Nelson, to launch a suit against McDuffee and Morrison County.

In the suit the Nelsons allege that the county was in error when it failed to require an Environmental Assessment Worksheet (EAW) for the proposed kennel; and, that the kennel will be a nuisance for all those who live around it.

The scheduling hearing will be used to allow attorneys to explain the nature of the case to the judge. They will also discuss the need for deposition and formally request information, under oath, from the opposing side.

During this hearing it will also be determined when the case will be ready to go to trial.
Source: Morrison County Record - May 9, 2006
Update posted on May 9, 2006 - 8:51AM 
The plastic walls behind the dog runs at the Happy Tails Kennel near Little Falls, Minn., were lined with urine and waste buildup. Some kennels were below standard size; others had exposed, sharp edges. Expired medical drugs were found at the facility.
Gary McDuffee, owner of a proposed commercial breeding kennel where he intends to house 600 adult dogs in Morrison County, says there have been no complaints about kennels he's operated. But the Happy Tails Kennel, which McDuffee says he co-owned until a year ago, failed to comply with numerous U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) regulations -- including selling puppies deemed too young, failure to remove feces from primary enclosures daily, and not certifying the dates that dogs had last been fed and watered.
"I'm not going to comment," McDuffee answered repeatedly Thursday, when asked about USDA inspection documents from the past five years that the Star Tribune obtained this week.

According to USDA reports that were verified with the agency, Happy Tails sold a 47-day-old puppy on Aug. 14, 2002, and eight 50-day-old puppies in 2002 - even though the USDA mandates that puppies be at least eight weeks old and weaned before being transported.

A USDA report filed Jan. 22, 2003, said Happy Tails needed to remove feces from kennels for 120 adult dogs. Another report, filed eight months later, said the USDA inspector reported that the plastic walls behind three dog runs at Happy Tails "need to be cleaned and sanitized as they are dirty with feces and urine buildup," and that the problem affected 113 dogs.

The expired medical drugs were found on June 12, 2002. During that same inspection, the USDA agent noted that the interior height of enclosed kennels for 15 dogs didn't allow the required 6 inches of head room.

The USDA generally grants kennels two days to comply with regulations. Otherwise, kennels can be fined as much as $2,750 per violation for every day the kennel doesn't comply. A USDA spokesman declined to comment when asked whether Happy Tails complied. In other reports, furnished by the USDA to the Star Tribune, the owner of an affenpinscher puppy bought in December 2003 and traced to Happy Tails, said his dog was sold with internal parasites and hernia repair. A cocker spaniel puppy traced to Happy Tails was sold with a stomach virus that required hospitalization, according to another report furnished by the USDA.

The USDA reports also note how the number of adult dogs kept at Happy Tails fluctuated - rising to 829, according to a Sept. 18, 2003, report. It was the size of the proposed 600-adult small-dog kennel in Belle Prairie Township - and McDuffee's comment that he planned to surgically debark some of the dogs - that generated a "Stop the Puppymill in Morrison County, Minnesota" Internet petition, which has collected about 12,000 signees. The county board has been inundated with so many complaints from across the nation that the commissioners no longer list their e-mail addresses on the county Web pages.

Roger Nelson, who owns the Belle Prairie township farm next to the new kennel location, said he plans to appeal the board's decision not to do any additional environmental studies of how dog manure might affect area wetlands. Marshall Tanick, the Minneapolis attorney hired by a group fighting the dog kennel, said Nelson's suit will be filed within the next week and an additional suit, challenging the conditional-use permit that allows the kennel, also is expected to be filed.

McDuffee, 52, who said he will retire from his special education teacher's job at the end of the school year, refused to say when his new kennel will open. He would say only that he planned to sell puppies to pet shops and private owners nationwide and that his dogs wouldn't be sold for laboratory purposes. McDuffee also declined to discuss his marriage to Wanda McDuffee, saying only that the couple is divorced, and that the marriage and business partnership ended about a year ago.
Wanda McDuffee, who was suspended by the American Kennel Club until 2008 for twice misrepresenting breeds, usually was the only "acting licensed partner" with Happy Tails, said Darby Halloday, a USDA spokesman in Washington.

Gary McDuffee said in two interviews last week that he has been in the dog breeding business for 25 years and that he was an owner Happy Tails. In a Nov. 23, 2004, report stating that the wire flooring in Happy Tails' kennels had openings large enough for puppies' feet to pass through, Gary McDuffee is listed as one of the kennel's licensees.
Wanda McDuffee could not be reached for comment. Jason McDuffee, 27, the McDuffees' son, said he didn't know how to reach her. But Gary McDuffee said she remains active in dog-breeding and that Jason also has been involved.

Gary and Wanda McDuffee both are listed in a report by the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS), a nonprofit in Colorado dedicated to protecting companion animals. CAPS investigated Happy Tails last June. In its report, CAPS founder Deborah Howard writes that a West Highland terrier had feces-stained mats covering its chest and belly. The report also said that 10 percent of the undersized cages, stacked atop one another, were positioned on dirt with several weeks' accumulation of feces piled under them, along with feces-filled water underneath cages in the walkway.
Source: Star Tribune - February 3, 2006
Update posted on Feb 19, 2006 - 9:55AM 

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