WILLOW, Alaska — The woman who tipped Mat-Su authorities to the out-of-control puppy mill near Talkeetna is sharing why she turned the breeder in.
On Monday night in sub-zero weather, Mat-Su Borough Animal Control helped rescue more than 150 dogs near talkeetna.
“I'm appalled, it just makes me sick,” said Nancy Crowden, a recreational musher who reported the owner to animal control.
“I am so happy that this time the man went to jail. None of the others that I know of have ever been arrested for this,” she said.
Frank Rich, 53, faces 50 counts of animal cruelty.
But this isn't the first case of cruelty seen in the Mat-Su.
In 2005, Willow musher David Straub was found guilty of failing to provide his dog team with enough food, water or veterinary care.
In October 2004, borough animal control seized 28 of Straub's dogs. He was originally charged with 17 counts of animal cruelty, but the borough dropped the charges down to just one count.
Straub’s final penalty: a $300 fine.
In May of 2008, another musher, Doug Bartko, was accused of animal abuse. Animal care investigators found 12 malnourished dogs, and one that was already dead.
Bartko was also cited for animal cruelty just two years earlier.
“These people just go on like nothing happened like they did absolutely nothing wrong and then they get more dogs, get a kennel license and everything's OK,” Crowden said.
This recent case of alleged cruelty is different; Frank Rich is not a musher.
He ran a breeding operation, selling the husky-malamute mix puppies for hundreds of dollars.
Crowden says because of that, Rich should have been watched more closely.
“Why isn't the state in on that? Why isn't the state stepping in and saying 'if you're going to be making money off these puppies then you need to follow more stringent rules than anyone'?” Crowden said.
Alaska law states that animal cruelty cases like this one are considered a misdemeanor. It would be a felony if the person had been previously convicted on two or more separate occasions within 10 years.
Crowden says the law needs to change.
“There need to be stricter penalties and fines for people who do it, and once they've been convicted on animal cruelty, they shouldn't be able to just go and get dogs again and start all over again. It should be made a felony and not a misdemeanor,” Crowden said.
She plans to work toward convincing local lawmakers to amend the state statute, but Crowden says she realizes it will take the support of others, as well.
“I hope that a lot of people now will stand up for the dogs out here in the Valley that get abused like this and make charges stick on these people. Make 'em pay for the crime that they've done, because it is a crime, it's torture,” she said.
Contact Lori Tipton at firstname.lastname@example.org