All 35 border collies seized from a Sprakers breeder earlier this month were infested with worms and a majority were either underweight or suffering from open wounds, according to a recently completed veterinarian’s report.
Volunteers from the Montgomery County SPCA went to the home of Herbert Weich, who runs the Flat Creek Border Collie breeding kennel, on Jan. 7 and took 41 of his 60 dogs.
The seizure followed a week of animal negligence complaints and legal maneuvering in which state police were sued by animal rights lawyers for not immediately taking the dogs. Hours before the dogs were taken, Weich was ticketed on a charge of not providing adequate shelter and temporarily gave up rights to the majority of his pack in state Supreme Court in Montgomery County.
At the time, the court’s main concern was shelter: The dogs were living in small pens with modified plastic oil drums for homes.
On Jan. 7, six shih- tzus were taken to the Montgomery County SPCA shelter and 35 border collies were trucked to Glen Highland Farm in Morris. The border collies were given a once-over by Sidney veterinarian Dr. Johnathan Davis, whose findings were bound into a 36-page report obtained by The Gazette. According to that report, only eight of the 35 collies were considered of acceptable weight. The rest were classified as either underweight or emaciated.
“The outward appearance of the Flat Creek dogs is deceiving. Since their fur is dirty and matted, it appears they are much heavier,” the report stated. “Most of these dogs have rib bones or hip bones protruding, without any body fat or muscle mass.”
Aside from their small stature, the veterinarian also reported all dogs were infested with worms, had skin problems and were nearly feral. Many also had ear mites or open wounds. The report suggested these conditions were caused by neglect and malnutrition.
Weich could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but previously said his dogs were in good condition.
“My dogs are fine,” he said. “Anyone who saw them knows that.”
Armed with the report, Richard Rosenthal, the lawyer and Lexus Project animal rights activist who initially sued state police, plans to push for criminal charges.
“This isn’t just neglect,” he said. “This is criminal abuse.”
State troopers first followed up on an animal neglect complaint on New Year’s Eve. They even brought along a local veterinarian, who said at the time the dogs had adequate shelter. No action was taken.
Rosenthal filed his suit against state police to force them to take action against Weich. Since then, Weich was ticketed and the majority of his dogs removed, but Rosenthal said that’s not enough. He plans to leverage the veterinarian’s report and his pending lawsuit against state police to get misdemeanor charges leveled against Weich.
“There’s a chance we could get up to felony charges,” he said. “I’m going to be really upset if he ever gets to have animals.”
State police are still conducting an investigation with the help of the state Attorney General’s Office and the SPCA.
“The state police are going to send their own [state Department of] Agriculture and Markets veterinarian to check on the collies,” said Bethany Schumann-McGhee, an MCSPCA board member.
Weich is due back in court Feb. 5. He originally hoped to get 10 of his collies returned as better shelter was set up on his property. It’s unclear how the apparent condition of the seized dogs will affect that situation.
As the case progresses, Schumann-McGhee said the SPCA is carrying a hefty financial burden because it volunteered to pay for the care of all 41 Flat Creek dogs. Food and medical bills will likely total around $40,000, which is more than the organization typically spends in several months.
“It’s going to take a herculean fundraising effort to close this gap,” she said.
Some donations have come in, but thus far it’s not enough. Even so, she said knowing the dogs are getting treatment is worth the expense.