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Police seize more dogs from Sprakers kennel

Breeder served with warrant

January 23, 2014
Updated 9:26 p.m.
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— The last remaining outdoor dogs at the Flat Creek border collie breeding kennel in Sprakers were seized Wednesday night, state police said.

The action marks the second group of dogs removed from Flat Creek since New Year’s Eve, when complaints reached law enforcement that kennel owner Herbert Weich was not providing adequate shelter for his pack. On Jan. 7, SPCA volunteers removed a half-dozen shih-tzus and 35 border collies, the majority of Weich’s 60 dogs.

The state police removed 13 more Wednesday, including the last remaining dogs living outdoors.

“This is different,” said state police spokesman Sgt. John La Plante. “The first dogs he gave up willingly. The last ones were seized with a warrant.”

The warrant he said, was obtained from a Root town justice based on a veterinarian’s report claiming the 35 border collies originally removed were in much worse condition than initially thought.

State police officials would not comment on how many dogs are left on Weich’s property, and Weich could not be reached for comment Thursday.

According to another state police spokesman, Trooper Mark Cepiel, the dogs removed Wednesday are now being cared for in the area, but he could not specify exact locations.

For Eric Bellows, the local dog lover who first called in complaints about Weich, Wednesday’s seizure was a long-awaited victory.

“This is exactly what should have happened weeks ago,” he said.

Bellows called in an animal negligence tip shortly after noticing the dogs’ small stature and cold living conditions. A trooper dropped by to investigate Dec. 31, but didn’t immediately charge Weich.

As days passed, Bellows felt police were ignoring the situation and took matters into his own hands, posting pictures of the dogs on Facebook that sparked an international social media outcry. That outcry drew Richard Rosenthal, an animal rights lawyer with the Lexus Project, who went to court Jan. 6 in an attempt to force the dogs’ removal.

At the time, Rosenthal described it as a lawsuit designed to force state police into taking action against Weich. By that measure, his legal motion seemed to work. The day after Rosenthal filed his paperwork, Weich was given a ticket charging him with not providing adequate shelter, an Agriculture and Markets Law violation. Weich also temporarily gave up rights to 40 of his dogs at a pre-hearing conference in state Supreme Court in Montgomery County on Jan. 7.

La Plante said Wednesday’s seizure had nothing to do with the Lexus Project effort. He clarified that state police are not being sued and never were sued over the Sprakers case. The Article 78 motion was technically a “matter” that named the dog owner, not state police, he said.

“We were investigating this case long before the Lexus Project arrived,” he said, adding that even without Rosenthal’s trip from Queens, state police would have taken the same actions they have so far, and at the same times.

State police officials could not say if the most recent seizure will lead to more serious charges against Weich, but did say no further charges have yet been brought.

At this point, there’s even a chance Weich could retrieve 10 of his collies. He relinquished the original 40 dogs in the hopes 10 might be returned to him as he made improvements to the shelters on his land.

Since then, those dogs were shown to be in bad enough shape to warrant seizure of the remaining animals. Even so, La Plante said Weich’s original deal could stand, since the warrant was obtained in Root Town Court and Weich relinquished his dogs in state Supreme Court.

“Nothing will change until he appears in that court,” La Plante said.

Weich is due back in state Supreme Court on Feb. 5.

 
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