NORTHWOOD | The Assistant Worth County Attorney claims the attorney for a North Iowa woman accused of running a puppy mill used inflammatory language and misstated evidence in his arguments to allow the woman to keep 13 of the 154 animals seized by the county, documents said.
Winnebago County Attorney Kelsey Beenken, who is also an assistant Worth County, claims that attorney Michael Byrne misstated evidence and cited information not presented in the court hearing Dec. 3 and 4 in a “throw everything up to see what sticks” approach.
Barbara Kavars, 65, Manly, is asking the Worth County Magistrate Court to allow her to keep nine Samoyeds and four cats seized by the Worth County Sheriff's Office and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals last month.
A total of 154 dogs were seized during an animal neglect-related search warrant Nov. 12. Kavars signed a document surrendering all but the 13 animals she wants to keep.
Her attorney Michael Byrne filed a brief Dec. 12, claiming that the 13 animals should be returned to her regardless of whether they are found to be “threatened” or not.
Beenken filed a response Friday, saying Byrne used inflammatory language in an attempt to call the service of the search warrant and seizure of the animas “a pseudo-military operation.”
Byrne believes that Kavars was demonized in court.
“The military like invasion of the property by over 40 quasi-law enforcement officials and designees was unwarranted,” Byrne said, claiming Kavars would have been cooperative with transferring the animals in another way.
Beenken argues that the 13 animals should be declared “threatened animals” and should not be returned to Kavars.
Kavars, who claims she did not neglect the animals, has not been charged with a crime. ASPCA says charges are pending.
Byrne talks about the four cats in his conclusion, stating that the cats are all 14 to 15 years old though one of the cats requested is 18 years old.
“No one else is going to want those cats and love them,” he said.
Byrne said the cats have been raised by Kavars and have all been house cats at her home for their entire lives.
“If Barb does not have those four cats returned to her, they will likely be euthanized due to their age and care requirements,” he said.
Beenken said there was “not one shred of evidence admitted that supports this statement.”
ASPCA staff are caring for the cats and dogs Kavars is requesting at an undisclosed location in Iowa.
“There were no life-threatening conditions in the house, and it was not unfit for human habitation or the Sheriff’s office would have had an obligation to removed Mrs. Kavars from the home at that point as well,” Byrne said in his brief.
Beenken countered that no testimony or evidence supported that claim.
Worth County Deputy Andy Grunhovd said in his testimony that if there had been a dependent adult or child living in the home, they would have been removed.
Grunhovd visited her property near Manly when the Humane Society and the Animal Rescue League of Iowa raised concerns about the number of dogs on the property and possible neglect. He later drafted the search warrants that lead to the seizure of animals Nov. 12.
Kavars testified Dec. 4 that she has cleaned part of her home and three of her 32 kennels since her dogs were seized.
“She admitted she only cleaned in preparation for the hearing,” Beenken said. “There is no indication that suggests Respondent (Kavars) is willing or capable of maintaining a clean, sanitary shelter for these animals.”
Beenken noted that Kavars did not have a clear plan to prohibit future breeding of the animals if returned when she testified in court.
“Although she alleged she was not going to continue breeding, she would not commit to much of anything on cross examination on that matter,” Beenken said.
She said she began to struggle with the size and upkeep of White Fire Kennels, her breeding operation, after her husband was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2014. He died in June 2017.
After his death, Kavars began releasing dogs to the Humane Society of North Iowa while still selling puppies.
“They did not suffer from neglect but were cared for under difficult conditions,” Byrne said.
Byrne noted that Kavars put the welfare of the outside animals first, her indoor animals second and her own care last.
“While this was perhaps an attempt to sound selfless, it may ultimately define the problem,” Beenken said. “The owner of these animals cannot properly care for them or any other until she first properly cares for herself.”
Beenken continued saying the animals endured “a life of neglect, and they were properly rescued by law enforcement.”
Magistrate Douglas Krull is expected to rule on Kavars' ownership claim of the 13 animals by the end of the month.