County attorney: Puppy mill owner’s lawyer misstated facts

Published 8:31 pm Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The assistant Worth County attorney said the lawyer for the woman who owns the commercial breeding facility where 154 Samoyeds were rescued last month misstated facts in his brief.

Kelsey Beenken filed the response Friday to the Dec. 12 brief written by Michael Byrne, who is representing Barb Kavars, who owns White Fire Kennels, the Manly, Iowa-based facility where the dogs were rescued last month.

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In the brief, Byrne said nine dogs and four cats should be returned to Kavars whether they are found to be threatened or not.

“That Barb struggled essentially alone throughout 2017 and 2018 to care for these animals is a testament to her dedication, care and concern,” Byrne wrote.

Beenken is seeking for the 13 animals to be declared threatened and not allowed to return to Kavars’ custody.

In Byrne’s brief, he said, “the military-like invasion of the property by over 40 quasi-law enforcement officials and designees was unwarranted.” He said she would have cooperated with transferring the animals in another way.

Beenken wrote Kavars’ brief “misstated evidence presented at numerous junctures and cited information not in evidence in a ‘throw everything up to see what sticks’ approach.”

She said the brief used “inflammatory language.”

Beenken said Kavars admitted difficult conditions existed and she places the welfare of outside animals first, indoor animals second and the needs of herself last.

“While this was perhaps an attempt to sound selfless, it may ultimately define the problem,” Beenken wrote in the conclusion of her 10-page brief. “The owner of these animals cannot properly care for them or any other until she first properly cares for herself. In those surroundings, these nine dogs and four cats endured a life of neglect, and they were properly rescued by law enforcement.

“After a consideration of all of the evidence, the county should render the rescued animals as threatened animals.”

Beenken wrote Kavars made false statements pertaining to whether she had seen the animals after they were seized, whether ASPCA forensic veterinarian Elizabeth Pearlman connected care afforded at the facility to any specific condition of the animals and whether an injury to one dog consistent with dog fighting was the first of its kind at White Fire Kennels.

“Numerous dogs were observed with wounds consistent with dog fighting,” Beenken said. “Dogs were observed fighting at various times by Deputy (Andy) Grunhovd, and he observed wounds consisting with bite wounds on his very first visit to (Kavars’) residence. (Kavars) was fully aware of these issues.”

Beenken said Kavars’ testimony that she gave the dogs water every day was contradicted by Grunhovd, who testified she told him she does not provide water every day in the winter because the Samoyeds prefer to eat snow and ice.

“Further, that testimony is contradicted by consistent observations of a lack of accessible water on the property,” Beenken wrote. 

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals staff are caring for the cats and dogs Kavars is requesting away from White Fire Kennels.

Magistrate Judge Douglas Krull is expected to issue a ruling on the case by the end of the month.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Kavars had not been charged in connection with the seizure of the animals.


See what happened last night in the PM report here.


About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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