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New questions arise over health of dogs

Thursday, January 23, 2014 - Updated: 12:37 AM


For the C-S-E

FONDA -- A dog-breeding facility in Sprakers accused of not providing adequate shelter for its animals has had its court hearing adjourned until Feb. 5.

The hearing was originally scheduled for Monday; however, State Supreme Court at Judge Joseph Sise said the hearing was postponed upon the request and consent of all attorneys.

Attorney Bethany Schumann-McGhee is representing the Montgomery County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and said that both the New York State Police and the MCSPCA need more time to investigate and review the situation on the owner's property, as well as the health of the dogs that were seized.

"This period of time will allow us to fully understand the condition of all 35 dogs and to present the findings to the law enforcement, the attorney general's office and potentially the district attorney," Schumann-McGhee said.

Herbert Weich, owner of the facility at 569 Rappa Road, Sprakers, was charged with failing to provide adequate shelter for his dogs earlier this month when temperatures dropped to sub-zero levels.

At the first court hearing prompted by a lawsuit, Weich agreed to temporarily give up some of his dogs to the MCSPCA and a border collie rescue until he could construct adequate shelter.

Since the 41 dogs were removed and examined by veterinarians, new questions have been asked about the health and well-being of the dogs.

"It's fair to say that the concerns of the Lexus Project and the MCSPCA extend more broadly than just appropriate shelter at this time," Schumann-McGhee said. "The condition of the animals there that were seized certainly gives rise to much greater concerns on all of our parts as to how the situation should be dealt with."

She said state police were given information about the animals' health and believes the investigation will take place at that level first.

Phone calls made last week to state police public information officer Trooper Mark J. Cepiel indicated that no new information surrounding the investigation was available in the system. He said the last entry made was after they assisted the MCSPCA with the removal of the dogs.

"The situation is not closed within the case report, but no new entries are telling me anything further," Cepiel said.

Cepiel and Assistant Attorney General Shoshanah Bewlay, representing the state police, did not return phone calls seeking comment on Monday.

The 35 border collies seized from Weich's Flat Creek Border Collies breeding facility are recuperating at Glen Highland Farms, a rescue facility in Morris, Otsego County.

Five shih tzus and one border collie remain in the MCSPCA's custody.

Owner of the rescue, Lorrie Goodrich, reported that when the animals first arrived, the veterinarians were horrified about their condition. Goodrich said the majority of the dogs were underweight, heavily matted, and had tape worms, among other health issues.

Weich was not available for comment and a person answering the phone at his residence would not forward a message.

Richard Rosenthal, an attorney for the Lexus Project, a legal defense organization for dogs, helped file the lawsuit against Weich.

Rosenthal said he is more focused on the condition of the dogs and right now it's not a shelter issue.

He hopes the state police work with Goodrich's farm and the MCSPCA on whether to allow Weich to continue his breeding practice.

"The Lexus Project has stood back, let the rescue, who have been examining them, the SPCA, who is now involved, and the police, who are now involved, sort of coordinate and figure out what their next step is," Rosenthal said.


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