Outcry emerges over conditions at Sprakers kennel



SPRAKERS -- Dozens of border collies were fenced in around 569 Rappa Road Friday afternoon, roaming the snowbound property.

This is the residency of Kathy Welch, who breeds the dogs with her brother under the business "Flat Creek Border Collies."

On New Year's Eve, New York State Police in Fonda were notified about a possible animal neglect case involving 70-plus border collies at Welch's home, according to NYS Troop G Public Information Officer Mark J. Cepiel.

After several visits to her property, it was determined there were no violations of NYS law or local codes at the time.

"We received a complaint, and several officials looked at the site, it is within aspects of the law as far as food, shelter, water being available." said Cepiel.

He explained that the Montgomery District Attorney's office was consulted about the situation and they will investigate further into the case.

"We haven't closed it, we will continue to monitor the situation because of the interest and we want to make sure everything is up to standard and it wasn't a situation just for our viewing, but as of right now there are no violations of law, so that's why no arrests have been made," Cepiel said.

Welch did not respond to requests made for comment Friday.

The "interest" Cepiel referred to are the hundreds of people on Facebook who have liked, shared or commented on photos and urgent messages regarding Welch's "puppy mill operation," as well as the complaints the department has received verbally about the alleged abuse.

These concerned community members are begging public officials to press charges against the "puppy mill" operation.

The forerunner of this public outcry, Eric Bellows, owns an animal rescue business in the town of Root.

According to Bellows, he visited the kennel Tuesday disguised as an interested customer looking for a puppy. He said he was shocked by the conditions of the environment.

"When I was there, there were at least 70 to 80 dogs running around that property," said Bellows. "There was no bedding except for old, wet, nasty stuff that was in there. When I first got out of my car there were over 40 dogs within the first six or seven yards."

He also said the dogs were sleeping in empty plastic barrels and were traveling close to the electric fences set up around their yard.

"If people went the day I went, you would have seen a place that was so chaotic," said Bellows. Having taken several behavioral modification dog-training courses, Bellows said he is familiar with the border collie breed mix. According to Bellows, the collie's fur coat is not made to withstand sub-zero weather without the proper shelter to keep warm.

"Their coat is not like a Siberian husky or sled dog, they don't have winter coats," he said.

Soon after visiting the property, Bellows filed a complaint that helped trigger the initial investigation.

Susan McDonough, a retired New York State trooper and volunteer for the New York State Humane Association, said that under sections 350 and 353 of the NYS agriculture and markets law is the definition of animal cruelty and a description of what constitutes as a proper shelter.

She said the law is not specific because it applies to all animals, but it is not vague enough for police unable to determine the state of an animal's welfare.

"If I saw these dogs with just plastic barrels, any one that has a facility that's selling dogs to the public, for them to have just barely get by for the animals ... with enough to just barely get by, to me that's not sufficient," said McDonough.

She said the problem with this law is that animals need shelter which would adequately fit the nature and climate of the dog . Police need knowledge about the breed to assess the shelter properly. McDonough believes that police do not have enough training in this area to determine this.

NYS Assemblyman James Tedisco posted on Facebook that he was contacted by about Welch's puppy mill and that state and local law enforcement told him minimum standards of the law were being enforced.

Tedisco said he was working on an anti-puppy mill legislation that he co-sponsored and is waiting for Governor Andrew Cuomo to sign it.

He asked that everyone call the governor's office and push to motion the bill.

"If the state refuses to protect those who have no voice then our local governments should have the ability stop these puppy mills which keep our four-legged friends in such deplorable conditions," said Tedisco in the post.

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