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Breeder Charged For Deplorable Conditions, Still Allowed To Sell Pets

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(credit: CBS) Liz Collin
At 15 years old, Liz Collin made her broadcast debut covering...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minnesota woman charged with keeping more than 130 dogs in deplorable conditions is still allowed to raise and sell pets. Earlier this week, Deborah Rowell pleaded guilty to mistreating dogs at her kennel in Pine River.

Now, we’re seeing what investigators found on her property when they seized those dogs this summer and what we found when WCCO went back.

When rescue teams moved in, in July they documented cramped cages and very few spots for dogs to find shade from the hot, summer sun but when they looked closer, conditions were even worse: fly bites, moldy food even a dead mouse in the only bowl of water some dogs had to drink.

In all, the Animal Humane Society team took 133 dogs from Deborah Rowell. At least a dozen were pregnant. Seven of the dogs would eventually have to be put down — either too sick or too dangerous to get a second chance.

Lois Baker lives two blocks from the kennel and finally figured the neighbor’s complaints had been heard.

“Thank goodness someone is doing something. You knew something was going on there,” Baker said. “Normal, healthy dogs don’t bark 12 to 13 hours continuously.”

But this week, they learned Rowell would pay a $135 fine for what investigators found that day.

“It’s ridiculous. How is that OK?” Baker said.

Even though, the Humane Society spent $200,000 getting the dogs healthy enough to find new families.

“I think the sentence itself is criminal,” said Janelle Dixon, CEO of the Animal Humane Society.

What’s even more surprising to some involved with this case is that Rowell is still allowed to raise and sell dogs. None of the charges would have suspended her license.

Looking inside her kennel fence this week, we spotted at least 10 labs and online, Rowell is advertising seven breeds for sale saying they are raised with much love and care.

Rowell told me off camera that the humane society is trying to shut her down to make money off her dogs.

“The reason she’s in business is to make money, it has nothing to do with the breed standard, the care of the animals so that’s pretty hypocritical,” Dixon said.

The Animal Humane Society thinks cases like this don’t get the attention they deserve. For years, it’s been pushing for a puppy mill law in Minnesota, cracking down on kennels before it gets this far.

So, even though so many dogs from Pine River have been given a new start, it’s a scene animal advocates don’t want to play out again.

As part of the plea deal, Rowell is subject to inspections at any time. She was also sentenced to 90 days in jail but won’t have to serve any time if she stays out of trouble for a year.

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