Wisconsin man accused of running puppy mill faces 117 criminal charges
ELMWOOD, WIS. - Pierce County prosecutors handed down 117 criminal counts against an Elmwood man accused of operating a puppy mill on his property. Stuart Earl West, 68, was charged Tuesday in Pierce County Circuit Court with 21 counts of intenti...
ELMWOOD, WIS. - Pierce County prosecutors handed down 117 criminal counts against an Elmwood man accused of operating a puppy mill on his property.
Stuart Earl West, 68, was charged Tuesday in Pierce County Circuit Court with 21 counts of intentionally providing improper animal shelter space, 48 counts of intentionally providing animal shelter ventilation and 48 counts of intentionally failing to provide food for an animal. All 117 charges are misdemeanors. He pleaded not guilty to all charges at a preliminary hearing, where Pierce County District Attorney Sean Froelich requested a $48,000 signature bond -- an amount he later confirmed was symbolic of the 48 dogs removed last week from West’s property.
Pierce County Circuit Court Commissioner Jorv Gavic approved the bond amount and conditions, which prohibit West from possessing an animals. West asked if he could keep one dog on the property from security.
“There will be no animals,” Gavic responded.
Members of the Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) and the Animal Humane Society (AHS) seized the dogs Friday, April 22, after executing a search warrant at West’s N4758 350th St. home.
According to an ASPCA news release, the dogs were all yellow labradors and comprised 35 adults and 13 puppies. The dogs were living indoors in small, filthy travel crates with no access to food or water,” according to the ASPCA.
Pierce County Sheriff Nancy Hove said more than 10 adult dogs were found dead in a barn on the property, with more allegedly buried in the back yard.
“It was disgusting,” she said. “I don’t know how else to put it.”
The ASPCA identified the operation as a puppy mill -- “a large-scale breeding operation designed to generate profits at the cost of the animals’ health and well-being,” according to the release.
Hove said authorities became aware of the alleged operation after a person went there to buy a dog and was floored by the conditions at the facility.
Sheriff’s officials, along with members of the state agriculture department, went to West’s home to gather information on March 28, according to reports. Hove said officers documented the living conditions after West let them in.
Among things witnessed was a kennel containing three large dogs.
“That kind of caught our attention,” she said, noting the department contacted the ASPCA afterward and began drawing up a search warrant request.
Friday’s all-day search of the property led to the transport of the surviving dogs to AHS facilities in Golden Valley, Minn., where they received veterinary treatment. The dead dogs’ remains were sent out of state for autopsies, Hove said.
“What we saw here is no way for a dog to live,” said ASPCA Field Investigations and Response Director Kathryn Destreza. “The puppies at breeding facilities are sold for profit, but many people don't’ realize that their parents are often kept there for years, subjected to incessant breeding and usually lacking basic care and socialization, resulting in a very poor quality of life.”
The incident represented the second time in less than a year that the ASPCA was deployed to western Wisconsin; the organization assisted St. Croix and Polk county authorities last year in uncovering suspected cockfighting operations.
Hove said the organization came with its own equipment and veterinarians who checked over the dogs on the scene.
“They were wonderful to work with,” she said.
A preliminary hearing in the case was set for May 26.