NORTHWOOD | A Worth County deputy who visited the property of a North Iowa woman accused of operating a puppy mill described the scene at a court hearing Monday.
Worth County Sheriff’s Deputy Andy Grunhovd had been visiting Barbara Kavars at her property in rural Manly every few months since March 2018, at the request of the Animal Rescue League of Iowa and the Humane Society of North Iowa.
The Worth County Sheriff’s Office during a search warrant Nov. 12 seized 154 Samoyeds and four cats from Kavars’ property, citing animal neglect. Kavars has not been charged with a crime, but the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says charges are pending.
Kavars has requested the court allow her to keep nine of the dogs and four cats, which are being cared for by the ASPCA and several Humane Societies. Kavars said she didn't neglect the animals, according to court documents.
During the winter, Grunhovd testified Kavars told him the Samoyeds didn’t get water every day because they would eat snow and ice instead.
ASPCA Investigator Kyle Held said the dogs’ frozen water buckets contained deep lick marks, meaning the dogs were working hard to get water.
“I made a mental note to myself because I’ve only seen this a couple of times before,” Held testified. “The water had been frozen for so long you could see lick marks – holes – several inches deep.”
In March, Grunhovd said there were three dogs that needed immediate attention – one with a skin condition and two others that needed surgery.
“She didn’t think they (dogs) were that bad,” he testified.
One was treated, the other was given to the Humane Society and the third died after surgery, Grunhovd said.
Kavars’ husband died in June 2017, and she told the deputy things had “gotten bad the in the past year,” Grunhovd testified.
He said the dogs had limited water in April and May. In July, he said their kennels were packed with feces.
Kavars repeatedly told him she wanted to get rid of some of the dogs, Grunhovd testified, but every time she let go of a few of them, more puppies were born.
ASPCA Forensic Veterinarian Dr. Elizabeth Pearlman said 16 of the Samoyeds that were seized were pregnant. About 37 puppies have been born in the ASPCA’s care since the seizure, Pearlman said, and six of the pregnant dogs have not delivered yet.
One of the nine dogs Kavars wants returned to her is pregnant.
"If we were to reward back a dog that is pregnant, we will be beck in this situation next year," Pearlman said during her testimony late Monday afternoon.
The pregnant dog is considered "thin" on the Purina Body Condition Score. According to Pearlman, the dog is breaking down its own muscle to feed the growing puppies as she does not have enough fat stores.
Upon his visit in October, Grunhovd said the kennels had been scraped but the dogs had very little kibble.
In November, Kavars was dragging a tarp through the center of the yard when he visited.
Inside the tarp was an injured dog Kavars needed help loading to take to the vet in Forest City. In the past, Grunhovd said Kavars told him she had trouble catching the dogs and wanted high school boys to volunteer for the task.
“I wasn’t sure if it was dead or alive, then it lifted its head up,” Grunhovd said.
The dog, which Grunhovd testified smelled of feces, was caked in mud and had an open wound on its back, died within two days of going to the vet.
Held, the ASPCA investigator, said kennels contained several inches to feet of compacted straw that was saturated with urine and feces. Live maggots were found in some of the evidence ASPCA took from the property.
Held said sanitation was one of the biggest issues for the animals.
Since the Samoyeds’ coats are supposed to be white, the discoloration of their coats is more obvious. He said many of them were stained by urine from them laying on the ground.
“When you look at the totality of the situation, these animals were neglected in my opinion,” he testified.
Photos of the interior of Kavars’ house were also shown in court.
Trash could be seen throughout the home in the photos, and one of the bedrooms had piles of boxes containing the ashes of cremated dogs.
“That house can’t really be cleaned,” said Grunhovd, who noted the walls inside were covered in urine and feces. You can’t disinfect sheetrock; it’s porous.”
Kavars, who took notes throughout the hearing, will testify in court Tuesday afternoon.
Magistrate Douglas Krull ordered the media to not photograph or record Kavars while she is on the stand. Her attorney, Michael Byrne, argued it would cause her emotional stress.
Krull is expected to make a decision on Kavars’ request for custody of the 13 animals at a later date.
Photos: North Iowa woman accused of operating puppy mill appears in court
Photos: ASPCA rescues Samoyeds from Worth County puppy mill