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Lt. Troy McLin, with the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Department, on Tuesday helps unload two Chihuahuas taken from the Dream Catchers Kennel property, located on Ky. 196 in Nancy. More than 40 dogs and two cats were taken from the property as part of a plea deal reached by owner Dennis Bradley, 61, and prosecutors. Bradley is expected to plead guilty to second-degree animal cruelty today in court.

The owner of a Nancy dog kennel is expected to plead guilty to animal cruelty charges as part of a deal with authorities that also involved the removal of nearly 50 animals from his property.

More than 40 dogs and two cats were taken early Tuesday morning from Dream Catchers Kennel, located at 2499 Ky. 196 in Nancy, in a joint effort between local authorities and national and state animal rescue organizations.

“They’ve definitely been neglected,” said Kathryn Destreza, director of investigation for The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, at the scene of the operation. “We need to make sure their needs are met.

“We need to acclimate them to fresh air, food and water, and the ground,” Destreza added.

And today, kennel owner Dennis Bradley, 61, is expected to appear in Pulaski District Court and plead guilty 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, according to information provided through a press release from the ASPCA.

The 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 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.

That’s why the ASPCA and the Kentucky Humane Society, or KHS, stepped in on Tuesday to help in the removal of the animals.

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

On Tuesday, animal rescue volunteers and workers swarmed Bradley’s property to help remove the animals in the freezing temperatures. Dogs were transported via van to the nearby Burnetta Baptist Church, where they were loaded onto two waiting ASPCA trailers.

Hatfield, Pulaski County Judge-executive Barty Bullock, and Deputy Judge-executive Rita Curry stopped by the operation site Tuesday to offer support and help in the unloading of the animals.

“The collaboration between law enforcement and the ASPCA enabled our agencies to save these dogs from certain demise, and I applaud the ASPCA for being a voice for these animals who otherwise would not receive the care and attention they so desperately need,” stated Pulaski County Sheriff Todd Wood in the ASPCA press release.

A variety of dogs were taken from the property, 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.

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.

“We hope to give these dogs much-needed medical treatment and place them quickly into new homes where they can learn what it means to be a pet,” Destreza said in the press release.

A Nancy resident took notice of the operation and stopped at the church Tuesday to express her gratitude to the animal rescue organizations.

“I’m just so thankful they’re getting it cleaned up,” said the woman, who declined to provide a name.

The dogs by Tuesday afternoon were on their way to a temporary  shelter in Louisville, Ky. where the dogs will receive veterinary exams and care with supplies provided by PetSmart Charities, Inc.

Once the dogs are medically checked out, the ASPCA’s behaviorists will carry out behavior evaluations and provide socialization, with support from the KHS, before placing the dogs with local and national animal welfare groups for adoption.

“We’re making sure they’re healthy and (we will) get them adopted as soon as possible,” said Kelly Krause, media coordinator for the ASPCA.

Bradley’s kennel came under scrutiny after an undercover video taken in Bradley’s 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 allegedly trump any welfare concerns for the animals.

“People who run facilities like this are interested in making a profit, not in the well-being of the animals,” said Destreza in the press release.

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.”

Destreza said part of the problem lies in the state’s lax animal cruelty laws.

Kentucky’s animal cruelty laws have been considered some of the weakest in the nation, and no state  regulations currently exist on how many animals can be kept on a property. Authorities can only step in when the animals appear obviously neglected and abused.

Many other states require that pet owners get a license once they have a certain number of animals. Those licenses require that the property passes inspection to ensure the animals’ welfare is the top priority.

Laws that regulate the number of animals at certain properties can help many people avoid becoming overwhelmed with too many animals — whether they intend to operate a non-profit rescue or not.

“Whether a puppy mill or a hoarder, most jurisdictions can’t save animals because ... they have no place to put them and no disposition laws,” said Destreza. “ ... Kentucky needs to help jurisdictions do this kind of work.”

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