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Update on 'puppy mill' investigation

If Zenas Baer has his way, animal abuse charges pending against a New York Mills dog breeder will go away.

"The charges are based on self-serving information," the defense attorney said Monday as he left a hearing in Otter Tail County District Court for Kathy Bauck.

Bauck faces five counts of cruelty to animals, two counts of torture and two counts of practicing veterinary medicine without a license.

The charges stem from claims made by an animal welfare advocate who, among other things, told authorities he saw Bauck pull the leg off a puppy during a difficult birthing when he worked at Bauck's kennel, Pick of the Litter, earlier this year.

Baer, who has described the episode as an attempt to save the life of a puppy that was otherwise certain to die, has filed papers asking that all charges be dismissed.

Kathy Jo Bauck, who is a licensed breeder with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, was found to be in noncompliance with her license after USDA inspections in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007, according to records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act.

In the pending court case, Jason Smith, a member of the Companion Animal Protection Society, a Massachusetts-based nonprofit, went to the Otter Tail County Sheriff's Department in May, according to a court complaint.

Smith claimed Bauck was mistreating animals, including submerging dogs in a tub filled with an insecticide called Prolate/Lintox, which according to the complaint is supposed to be used on cattle and swine.

"Animals are not to be submerged in this kind of solution. The young and the immune-suppressed are more likely to get toxic exposure," the complaint states.

Baer told Judge Wally Senyk the charges are not proper and are causing Bauck's business, which she has operated for more than 20 years, great hardship because potential buyers will not do business with her while the case is pending.

In recent years, the kennel purchased between 800 and 1,000 animals annually and sold between 3,000 and 4,000 animals a year, according to USDA documents.

Baer said if the Otter Tail County charges are not dismissed, he wants the judge to suppress any evidence acquired through "law enforcement using Smith as a clandestine undercover officer," including video Smith shot at the kennel.

Senyk is expected to rule on the requests on Oct. 9.

Also at issue is a case from earlier this year when Bauck entered a guilty plea to one count of practicing veterinary medicine without a license.

In that case, Bauck was sentenced to 120 days in jail with 110 days stayed on condition she have no similar violations. Prosecutors have asked the court to impose the remaining jail time.

(The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead and the New York Mills Herald are both Forum Communications newspapers.)