Barbara Kavars, 65, who operates White Fire Kennels, filed a response through her attorney Michael Byrne Wednesday. She asked Magistrate Douglas Krull to find the 13 animals are not threatened and have them returned to her.
Based on the animals' health and the conditions at Kavars' property, the Worth County Attorney's Office argued in court documents Nov. 21 that Kavars is not fit to care for or have custody of the dogs and cats.
A hearing has been scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, Dec. 3, in Worth County District Court to determine if those animals should be returned to Kavars or remain in ASPCA’s custody.
Kavars surrendered ownership of the rest of the dogs -- more than 140 Samoyeds that were seized from her rural Manly home by the Worth County Sheriff's Office and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) during an animal neglect-related search warrant Nov. 12.
In her response, Kavars claimed the county obtained the search warrant claiming animal neglect, but references state law regarding animal abuse.
Kavars also claims the search warrant approved by the magistrate failed to provide verification of probable cause for animal abuse or neglect, violating state law.
The response also states Kavars did not voluntarily surrender ownership of the dogs or cats taken from her property and that she was not "informed of her legal rights" during the search warrant.
Kavars also claimed she was "under duress and threatened loss of animals" if she refused to sign an agreement giving up ownership of the animals at the time of the search warrant, according to the response.
Kavars also addressed the animals' health and living conditions, stating in the response the 13 animals in questions were not neglected as they were given sufficient food, water and "adequate shelter was provided for a dog of this breed."
In her response, Kavars said the dogs had not been fed or watered for the day, as it was only 7 a.m. when the search warrant was executed.
ASPCA officials said the dogs lived in overcrowded kennels with little to no food and no clean water. The kennels had limited roof coverage, smelled strongly of ammonia and were full of feces, according to court documents filed by the Worth County Attorney's Office.
She said in court documents the kennels were covered, protecting the dogs from rain or sun. Fallen branches throughout the property had nothing to do with the care of the dogs, her response stated.
“Overcrowding of kennels is not a basis for animal neglect under (state law) as it does not relate to food, water, adequate shelter from the elements of the ‘necessary sustenance’ as provide (sic) by the code,” Kavars said in court documents.
Kavars said the court cannot consider the condition of other dogs except for the nine in the petition.
Court documents say the nine dogs Kavars seeks to keep, as well as many others on the property, had dirty, matted fur that, on some, the matting was so severe it encompassed their entire tail or underbelly.
Many were underweight, had dental problems, untrimmed nails and fecal matter on their bodies and between the pads of their feet. Some dogs were fighting, others were cowering, and some had trouble standing and walking.
Further exams by ASPCA veterinarians revealed the nine dogs and four cats Kavars wants to keep were underweight, had heavily-matted fur and dental disease. One dog had seeds, burs and fecal matter on a 6-by-4-inch mat on its tail, court documents said.
One of the dogs is pregnant and another has a mass in its mammary area. Others had fleas, flaky skin, stained eyes and waxy buildup in their ears, as well as eye problems or degenerative muscle wasting, documents said.
The veterinarians found the cats were thin and had dental disease, eye problems, itchy ears and overgrown nails, as well as wounds and scabs.
She also denied her home is unsafe for human or animal habitation.
Investigators say the home had an “overwhelming odor of ammonia and feces,” making it impossible to breathe.
Court documents said containers of unopened animal and human food were piled throughout the home, which had mats of fur and dirt caked on surfaces, including kitchen counters, and pee pads soaked in feces and urine covering the living room floor.
Kavars' response claimed that Worth County was making unspecified standards for animal care that were not backed up by state law.
Kavars also argued against several of the county's observations about neglect in her response. She claimed pregnancy, past pregnancy, past wounds, dental disease, eye discharge, overgrown nails or dirty, matted coats are not signs of neglect.
She also argued senior cats are more likely to weigh less and "do not have the best of bodily functions" but that she had taken care of her cats.
Kavars has not been charged with a crime, but the ASPCA says animal neglect charges are pending.