Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Puppy mill raided near Bowie

Hundreds of dogs found alive and dead

Ryan Evans/ For the Times Record News

Authorities found and seized hundreds of dogs — from healthy to emaciated to dead — at Maggic Pets/ Heddins Kennel north of Bowie Tuesday.

Montague County Sher­iff Paul Cunningham and Chief Deputy J.T. Mitchell presented a warrant at 9: 45 a. m. for the search and sei­zure of the animals at the Heddins Ranch.

Cunningham said Hu­mane Society of North Texas representatives (Fort Worth chapter) told him the puppy mill operated by Cloyce and Carol Heddins is possibly the largest of its kind in Texas.

The front area of the 254- acre farm presented a friendly and inviting pic­ture for the breeding busi­ness, which has been op­erating for more than 30 years, according to its Web site. Behind a privacy fence, the scene was drastically different.

The breeding area, which covered about 25 acres, con­tained pens each containing 12 to 15 dogs. Cunningham said no water was available and some animals were found with missing legs.
Searchers found at least four dead dogs and a num­ber of bones, including skulls and jaws.

“ There is grass back there up to my shoulders,” Cunningham said, motion­ing toward the fence. “ We have no idea how many dogs could be back there.”

By noon, workers from his department and the humane society had counted 497, a number that could grow as the search continues.

“ We have been told there are graves out here,” Cunningham said. “ But, right now, our concern is for those still alive.”

One pasture was fi lled with beagles. Of the esti­mated 50- 60 dogs, only a few were males.
“ The vet told me these animals were clearly over­bred,” Cunningham said.

“ Many of these animals have serious medical con­ditions,” said Tammy Rob­erts, humane society lead cruelty investigator. “ Our veterinarian is walking through. Those in need of immediate attention will go to the vet’s offi ce, while the others will go to a stag­ing area.”

Four air conditioned box trucks fi lled with pet carriers arrived at the farm to begin transporting the dogs to an undisclosed location for care until after a seizure hearing.

An investigation into the Heddins’ operation by both the Humane Society and the sheriff’s depart­ment has been going on “ for some time,” accord­ing to Roberts and Cun­ningham.
Cunningham said he began receiving calls about the farm when he took of­fi ce in January, and many more calls were made to the department before he took office. “ It took us a while to build a case,” he said. Once the case was built, the sheriff was granted the search warrant by Judge Karen Reynolds. No arrests were made or criminal charges fi led so far. Any charges will be addressed following the seizure hearing July 17 in Bowie.

Cunningham said the breeders claimed they worked with the Humane Society and American So­ciety for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals once per year to make sure they were operating in compli­ance with regulations.

After the warrant was presented, Carol Heddins, a heart patient, requested to be taken to a hospital, Cunningham said. Cunningham said two other separate investiga­tions involving the breed­ers have begun. The Texas comptroller’s office will check to make sure proper sales tax payments have been made, and the Inter­nal Revenue Service will begin checking income tax records. “ They have been using and abusing these animals for profit. That’s sad,” Cun­ningham said.