Thanks to a sudden but intense campaign by dog lovers on Facebook, about 40 puppies will be sleeping much warmer and safer tonight. Herbert Weich, the owner of Flat Creek Border Collies puppy farm in Sprakers, N.Y., was charged yesterday with failing to provide adequate shelter from the bitterly cold winter weather for his dogs. The local SPCA took 40 of 66 dogs into custody, and Weich has two weeks to improve his facilities by building 24 insulated kennels. If he complies, the dogs may be returned. Twenty-six dogs are remaining in his custody on the condition that they’re brought in when the outside temperature drops below freezing.
Jan Zumbolo, of the Montgomery County SPCA, said of the dogs that “Right now what we’re seeing in the Shih Tzus is they’re terribly matted. They’re scared, they’re shaking of course. They’re scared, they’re cold. They have not been well cared for.”
The Flat Creek farm has inspired a lot of controversy and outrage within the past few weeks. A new Facebook page called Save the Dogs from Flat Creek Border Collies has posted many pictures showing the dogs in a snow-covered compound, sheltered only by plastic drums.
The New York State Police made several visits to Flat Creek but came away saying that it saw no legal violations. Last week, Major Steven James of the state police issued a statement saying, “Several visits to the kennel have not revealed any violations of New York state law or local codes. The owner of the kennel has provided shelter, food, and heated water as required. The New York State Police are continuing to monitor the health and well being of the dogs and are consulting with local animal welfare authorities as appropriate.”
What made the difference was the Lexus Project, a nonprofit group dedicated to providing legal services protecting the rights of dogs. Lawyers from Lexus took the case to court, arguing that Weich was not in fact looking after his dogs’ interests in accordance with the law, which has been criticized for being very vaguely worded: “The temperature surrounding the animal shall be compatible with the health and well-being of the animal. Temperature shall be regulated to protect each animal from extremes and shall not be permitted to fall below ranges which would pose a health hazard to the animal.”
Richard Rosenthal, the general counsel for the Lexus Project, says it’s not the group’s goal to permanently take the dogs away from Weich, but to make sure that he complies with the law.
“Having someone who will properly care for the dogs is in the dogs’ best interest. Having them go into adoption only further taxes the resources of the SPCA and rescue groups,” he told CBS News.
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