Commonwealth Journal

January 25, 2014

Dogs rescued from local puppy mill being evaluated

by Heather Tomlinson
Commonwealth Journal

Somerset — Veterinary and behavioral teams continued through the weekend to examine the more than 40 dogs and two cats that were taken last week from a dog kennel in Nancy, Ky.

“(Wednesday) about half of the animals taken from Pulaski County received medical examinations from the ASPCA and Kentucky Humane Society veterinary teams,” states a post on the Kentucky Humane Society’s Facebook page, dated Jan. 23. “(Thursday) the other half will be examined. Behavior assessments will begin this weekend.”

A number of volunteers and workers with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Kentucky Humane Society (KHS) descended upon the Dream Catchers Kennel, located on Ky. 196 in Nancy, early Tuesday morning and began removing the dogs as part of a plea deal reached by the dog kennel’s owner in his criminal case.

Dennis Bradley, 61, pleaded guilty Wednesday to one count of second-degree animal cruelty. As part of the deal, Bradley agreed to surrender the dogs at his facility and will face six months in jail, probated for a term of 24 months.

Bradley’s kennel came under scrutiny after an undercover video taken in the kennel was posted in an online news article published by WAVE3 News out of Louisville. The kennel was labeled a  “puppy mill” — a term used for large-scale operations during which dogs are bred and sold in large numbers, and where profits trump any welfare concerns for the animals.

In an undercover video posted with the article, Bradley can be heard asking between $250 and $300 for Schnauzer puppies. Pictures published with the article show several Schnauzer puppies crowded into one wire cage. Other pictures show a variety of dog breeds in the same wire cages.  

Bradley, when contacted by the Commonwealth Journal in November, insisted his kennel wasn’t a puppy mill, but a non-profit rescue organization.

“These are not dogs to me,” said Bradley. “These are my babies.

“ ... I tried to get me some help in here ... I didn’t hear from no one,” Bradley added. “I get no help from nobody. I do the best I can with what I’ve got.”

The initial investigation began in January 2013 after detectives with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department, responding to Bradley’s property after a report of animals being kept in inhumane conditions there, discovered more than 60 dogs in various stages of neglect.

“Upon arrival detectives discovered several dogs in pens/cages outside which were obviously sick. Several dogs suffered from having skin ailments and two appeared to be near death,” states the Jan. 2013 citation, filed by Det. Glen Bland. “Many of the dogs were living in poor conditions without proper shelter. Most pens were (too) small and were covered in mud and feces.”

Former Pulaski County Animal Shelter Director Darren Wesley would eventually remove 21 dogs from the property — some of which were euthanized after they tested positive for parvo. Parvo is a highly-contagious virus that causes death in dogs if left untreated.

County officials had stated in a November 2013 Commonwealth Journal article detailing the situation that resources were not available to allow for the removal of all the animals. The county’s shelter usually runs close to capacity, even as it works with a number of local rescue groups to adopt out dogs and cats.

If all the animals had been taken immediately, the county would have had to find shelter for all of them for an indefinite time while Bradley’s case made its way through the court system.

But because Bradley agreed to surrender the animals as part of his plea deal, the county was able to ask for help from the ASPCA and KHS in removing the animals and finding homes for them as soon as possible.

“We never would’ve been able to pull something like this off,” said Pulaski County Attorney Martin Hatfield, who’s office prosecuted the case. “It takes everyone working together to have the kind of resources to do this.”

Tuesday’s operation was a joint effort between the ASPCA, KHS, the sheriff’s department, and Hatfield’s office.

A variety of dogs were taken from the property on Tuesday during the three-hour operation in below-freezing temperatures, including several bloodhounds, two boxers, a husky mix, a cocker spaniel, and many Chihuahuas and terriers, along with an adult cat and a kitten.

The dogs lived in either a nearby barn-like structure, or in the house with Bradley.

Det. Bland said Bradley was allowed to keep five dogs, although four of those dogs are required to be spayed or neutered by next week. The fifth dog, an elderly dog Bland estimated to be about 14 years old, cannot reproduce.

News of Tuesday’s operation generated significant interest online over the dogs. Volunteers with the ASPCA and KHS have asked for patience while the dogs continue to be examined.

“We don’t have enough information yet to know when the dogs will be available for adoption,” the KHS posted on its Facebook page to a number of inquiries into adoptions. “We’ll be updating you early next week.”