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Va. breeder testifies business is not puppy mill, others disagree

Editor’s note: The final pages of this story contain part of the report written by the humane investigator for this case.

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FAUQUIER COUNTY, Va. – Websites for Fauquier County dog breeder Irina Barrett show dogs and puppies playing in a large paddock area. There’s plenty of information about the care Barrett takes in breeding and training happy, healthy dogs.

But reading the January report from a humane investigator offers a starkly different picture.

Great Danes, Boxers, French Bulldogs and Dobermans kept in plastic or wire crates –some in an unheated outbuilding, one in a crate in a dark closet, others with scars from fights.

Plus all of the dogs were in quarters with a strong odor of feces and urine.

Part of the report written by Hilleary Bogley, a humane investigator in Fauquier and Culpeper counties describes dogs found in one kennel area as appearing “underweight, fearful/unsocialized.”

The same report indicates that after Bogley’s first visit, she found out there were other dogs on the site Barrett hadn’t shown her. Barrett is otherswise described in the report as cooperative and willing to make improvements on the site.

On Thursday, the Fauquier County Board of Zoning Appeals held a hearing on Barrett’s request to get approval to operate her kennel. The meeting room in Warrenton was packed with people, some neighbors, and all opposed to Barrett’s request. The meeting took place after several members of the board visited Barrett’s home as part of a site visit.

WTOP was allowed to visit, but the owner barred photos from being taken.

At the hearing, a tearful Barrett plopped a foot-high stack of documents on the speaker’s podium and told the board members that they represented documentation of her dedication to caring for and breeding her dogs.

Breaking down into tears Barrett told the members, “I know what I am. I am honest and straightforward. I am not a puppy mill.”

She tearfully told the board members she would do what they required as long as she could continue to breed her dogs at her Broad Run home, she mentioned Dobermans – not the other breeds.

“I can’t lose my dogs, it’s everything to me. I hope you base your decision on the facts, what you’ve seen.”

After she spoke, a parade of witnesses testified starting with Bogley, whose report appeared online in many dog forums and sparked outrage and interest. Bogley, who runs an animal rescue site called the Middleburg Humane Foundation made clear that Barrett was cooperative and accomodating throughout her investigation.

Bogley declined to call the situation in the Broad Run home abusive

“It is not a cruelty case,” Bogley said. She followed this, however, with, “I consider it a puppy mill.”

“Mrs. Barrett knows what she’s doing. She moved from Fairfax County where she did have a kennel license violation.”

The Humane Society of the United States defines a puppy mill this way: “A puppy mill is an inhumane, commercial dog-breeding facility in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits.”

Barrett insists what she does isn’t a money-making operation, but a kennel dedicated to breeding quality dogs.

Learning Barrett had a previous experience operating a kennel without a license and then moved to Fauquier, where she’s operated without a kennel license for three and a half years, infuriated some of the speakers. It prompted many to ask the zoning board to keep the fact in mind as they decide whether to grant her a special permit.

Charles Dennis says he lives next door to the Barrett’s property.

” I can’t sit on my patio day or evening without hearing those dogs barking. I’ve counted anywhere from 16 to 20 to 22 at a time.”

Sometimes Dennis says he’d hear fighting break out among the dogs, describing the noise as “disturbing.”

“The squeals of the poor dog getting the bad end of the stick – the noise is atrocious. ”

Summing up his testimony Dennis said, “The care of the dogs is beyond my comprehension.”

Another neighbor, Jeff Caliberi said dogs had jumped Barrett’s fence and that he’d called her a number of times to tell her the fencing on her property needed to be improved.

Caliberi called the fencing totally inadequate and said on a couple of occasions, dogs had made it onto his property and cornered his horse inside its barn.

Calliberi told the board members there were times he felt the threat to his horse was so bad that, “I actually almost had to go get my shotgun, and I’d hate to have to do that.”

Veterinarian Kristen Hitt went with the zoning board members on their site visit earlier in the morning and said, ” I will say conditions are still deplorable in my mind.”

She said some of the surrendered dogs had hookworm, whipworm and roundworm. It seemed to her that Barrett was not adhering to basic standards of care in which breeders regularly “worm” their dogs on a set schedule. Hitt said other dogs hadn’t been vaccinated against rabies.

Another vet who examined several other dogs found one with a number of scars, apparently from fights.

Barrett operates on one physical site in Broad Run, Va. However, she has three different websites, each for a different breed she sells.

To one witness, that appeared as though she was trying to hide the fact she produced multiple breeds. That’s seen as a red flag to many people who operate kennels and who show dogs.

The same witness told board members that he’d visited Barrett’s home because he was interested in Dobermans, but when he went he was put off by the behavior of the puppy.

He described it as fearful, shaking and to his mind, clearly unsocialized – another red flag according to many dog trainers and animal welfare advocates.

After hours of sometimes emotional testimony, the hearing was adjourned. The board will render its decison on the zoning appeal next month. The zoning case number is Special Permit #SPPT13-SC-011

Here are the websites Barrett operates:

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EDITORS NOTE: The following is taken off the website version of Hilleary Bogley’s report. Bogley is the Humane Investigator for Fauquier and Culpeper Counties.

This is NOT a humane case, but a zoning case. Barrett is asking for a zoning permit to operate her kennel. She is currently in violation of Fauquier County regs on zoning. The Board of Appeals is NOT examining the HUMANE issues, but the zoning issues, though of course, a lot of the testimony was re: humane issues and care.

Fauquier County Board of Zoning Appeals office (Special Permit #SPPT13-SC-011), and it is a matter of public record. It can be viewed and copied during business hours at the Fauquier County Board of Zoning Appeals, 10 Hotel Street, Third Floor, Warrenton, VA, 20186.

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On January 11, 2013 I received an anonymous call of concern regarding dogs located at 6205 Beverleys Mill Rd. in Broad Run VA. The caller stated that there was “a large number of dogs living in poor conditions”. On January 12th, I arrived at the property at approximately 1p.m. I knocked on the front door and was greeted by Mrs. Irina Barrett. There was a strong urine / feces odor coming from inside of the house and I could see several dogs at the bottom of the stairway behind a puppy gate. I explained to her that I had received an anonymous call of concern and I needed to see all of the dogs and asked if she would be willing to show me around. She agreed to this and we began by going into the basement of her home.

In the basement there were 5 French Bull Dogs, a Boxer and a Doberman loose as well a mother Doberman in a wire crate, 7 young (7 week old) Doberman puppies and 4 very young (approximately 5 & 6 week old) Boxer puppies: 2 in with the Doberman puppies and 2 in a separate whelping box. I asked why there were Boxer pups in with the Doberman puppies and she said that 2 litters had “starved to death” since the mother did not produce milk so these puppies were the survivors and the Doberman mother was raising them. I explained that a responsible breeder would not allow puppies to “starve to death” and would hand raise them. She said she just did not have the time to do that since she had so many dogs. As we were talking, I heard a dog whining behind a door and asked who was behind the door. Mrs. Barrett explained that was where she crated the house dogs so; she opened the door to a storage sized/ walk in closet with no light on/ no window, where a Doberman was in a crate. I explained that she cannot keep dogs inside of a dark closet, she let the Doberman out to run loose with the others. We then went outside and walked around the house to a room to the right of the garage where there were 2 – 6’X6′ kennels. There was no ventilation in this room and again a strong stench of urine and feces filled the air. The walls were streaked in mud & feces. Both pens had urine soaked newspapers with a good amount of urine and feces. The dogs were unable to get out of their own waste.

In the first pen there were 4 teenage Doberman puppies all that had dirty bandages on their ears from a current ear cropping surgery. In the second pen there were 8 teenage Great Dane puppies. Several of the Dane puppies looked underweight, acted fearful/ unsocialized, and several had severe to moderate hair loss/lesions that appeared to be generalized demodectic mange. I explained that this was inadequate space for this number of dogs. I also noticed that the puppies were all coughing. She said that they were receiving an antibiotic for kennel cough. She prescribed this herself/ they had not been seen by a veterinarian for their cough although 3 of the Great Dane pups had just been seen by Compassion Vet in Gainesville for demodectic mange. I pointed out that one of the puppies had a huge swelling on a rear hock. She said it was an injury from a dog fight and the veterinarian had lanced an abscess and the antibiotics should help clear this up.

I explained that their respiratory issues were likely exasperated by the fact that there was no ventilation in this room and it is very unhealthy for them to have to breathe the ammonia / fecal waste smell. I also asked why none of the dogs had food or water bowls or access to water and she explained that they make too big of a mess when they are permitted to have water so she only allows them to drink 3-4 times a day when she offers water. No dogs have access to water unless she gives it to them. We then went to the back of the property to her “kennel building”. When she opened the door, the stench of urine & feces was again very strong with no ventilation and very little natural light. There were a total of 17 dogs in this building: 1 Doberman in a small plastic airline carrier / crate, 1 Boxer in an airline carrier / plastic crate/, 1 very large male Great Dane in with 2 female Great Danes and a female Doberman in an 8′ x 16′ kennel. I asked why she had a male Great Dane in with a female Doberman/ was she cross breeding them? She said she just didn’t have room to separate/ house them. In the next 6’x8′ kennel, there were 3 Great Danes and next to that pen was another 6’x8′ with 2 German Shepherds. Across the center aisle, there were 2 more pens with: 3 Great Danes in the first 10′ X 12′ pen, and 3 Great Danes and a Doberman in last 10’X10′ pen. We discussed that there conditions were cramped/ not adequate space and again, the dogs had no bedding, there were a few 1/2/ bottoms of plastic crates in the pens that had been chewed on and no one had any water or food bowls or access to water. There was also no ventilation in this building and the stench of ammonia and feces was very strong: our eyes were burning. The center isle had a cement trough that was 5-7 inches deep in fecal matter. It appeared that she shoveled fecal matter from the pens in the center trough. I explained that a majority of the dogs housed in this building did not have adequate space, the pens were too small/ there was not adequate space, and that she must provide ventilation, water and light for these animals. I also expressed concern over the 2 dogs being housed in small airline carriers. She said she lets them out 3-4 times a day. There was also no heat in the building.

I did not serve her a compliance notice although I gave her many recommendations and pointed out the many areas that needed improvements: veterinary care for skin conditions, pressure sores on feet from dirty housing on hard surfaces with no bedding, rabies vaccinations (many are not current), improve cleanliness of kennels, provide ventilation in kennel areas, provide adequate space, dogs should not be housed in plastic crates and if they needed to be, then need more exercise as well as providing light for dogs housed inside during daylight hours. Mrs. Barrett was receptive and willing to make all of the needed changes. I explained that I would continue to work with her to help her make improvements in her kennels and daily care and strongly recommended that she consider reducing her numbers to provide a higher quality of care for her dogs since she is a single person with 3 small children who is caring for approximately 50 dogs (17 adults in lower kennel, 4 Doberman pups, 8 Great Dane pups, 7 adults + 12 puppies inside the house).

Mrs. Barrett told me that she could not hire someone to help her with the kennels because “the conditions were not good enough for someone to work in”. I expressed that if she felt the conditions were not good enough for someone to work in then how could they be good enough for the dogs to live in? She agreed with me.

Mrs. Barrett had made several comments about that she had given away over 20 dogs in the past year on Craig’s List to reduce her numbers and that she had several dogs there that she no longer wanted. I offered for her to relinquish dogs to the Middleburg Humane Foundation (MHF) and explained that they would be well cared for: spayed, neutered, receive all necessary medical care, behavioral care and then placed available for adoption. She relinquished a total of 8 dogs to MFH: 6 Great Danes, a German Shepherd and a Boxer.

After leaving the property, I spoke with Deputy Reese who had also been to this property and found out that Mrs. Barrett was not completely forthcoming with either of us in regards to what dogs she currently had. She had not shown me the “sunroom” where she keeps a large number of Dobermans in plastic airline carriers as well as a Great Dane puppy she had in her laundry room therefore my total numbers from my first visit were incorrect. She had also not told Deputy Reese about the many different breeds at the property (Doberman Pinschers, Great Danes, French Bulldogs, Boxers & German Shepherds.). I asked Deputy Reese to accompany me when I returned for a follow-up visit.

Deputy Reese and I returned to the property on Friday January 17, 2013 for a follow up visit. Mrs. Barrett’s mother had just come from Russia and had imported/ brought with her another male Doberman Pinscher as well as the mother had super cleaned the inside of the house so there was a huge improvement in cleanliness of the basement areas. She had also cleaned up the room to the side of the garage as well as removed the fecal matter form the kennel building but there was still no ventilation in either of these rooms, no light in the main kennel building, and some of the pens were all still overcrowded with giant breed dogs. There was still one Doberman in a plastic crate in the kennel building.

We entered the sunroom at the back of the house where she is housing 9 dogs: 8 Dobermans and 1 Boxer. The crates were reasonably clean but no one had access to water and as she let them out one at a time for us to photograph, it was apparent that they loved getting out of their small crates. They all needed to urinate and really didn’t want to go back in! She claims that she lets them out 3-4 times a day but I expressed concern that it would be very difficult for one person to let out so many individually crated dogs for proper daily exercise. We did a complete inventory of every dog on the property with a full descriptions and photograph (see attached list).

I explained to Mrs. Barrett that we had a veterinarian, Dr. Roo Makosky, examine and do physical examinations on the 8 dogs previously released to MHF. There were multiple medical problems including: 2 Great Dane puppies had pneumonia, all 3 Dane puppies were coughing / kennel cough, one Great Dane adult had multiple bite wounds/ scars all over her body with a very large “mass” on her ribcage that appears to be an encapsulated abscess, another Dane has very sore/ swollen foot pads with pressure sores from being housed on dirty hard surfaces, all 3 Great Dane puppies have a severe case of demodectic mange (skin scrapped positive for mites), 3 dogs have ear infections, 3 dogs had an ocular discharge/ eye infections, and fecal tests performed on 4 of the 8 dogs showed a moderate to heavy load of intestinal parasite: hookworms, whipworms and roundworms.

On January 17th, Mrs. Barrett relinquished an additional 3 Great Danes to MHF.

I visited her 3 separate websites and it appears that she had a very large number of puppies born in 2012. Her 3 websites are: zlatomira Kennels for her Great Danes. On this site she has 5 Great Dane litters listed that were born in 2012 with a total of 34 puppies. The website for her Boxers is: RGBG Kennel. This website listed 4 litters but the dates were unclear. Her other website is Canis- Maximus Kennels for her Dobermans where she has 8 litters listed born in 2012 with a total of 61 Doberman puppies born. I was unable to find a website for her breeding of French Bull Dogs. She does breed this breed as she told me so and she had recently purchased the 2 younger Frenchies for breeding purposes. With just these 3 breeds: Dobermans, Great Danes & Boxers, she produced 99 puppies in 2012. It appears that she sells dogs locally as well as Inter-state with many mentions of puppies being shipped out of state for a charge of $400. The web sites show a very large number of dogs being housed and produced over the past few years. With these numbers, this breeding facility can be classified as a puppy mill.

My concerns are that there are still way too many dogs on the property that are not being properly housed as well as it is practically impossible for one person to properly care for 37 adult dogs, several litters of puppies and 3 small children on a daily basis. Mrs. Barrett expressed that she will comply with whatever the county allows here, “even if it is only 10 dogs”. She is aware of all her violations and will comply with whatever guidelines that are set for her in order to not have her facility shut down for improper housing/ failure to provide proper care, and improper licensing.

Due to the multiple problems found at this property and the unusually high numbers of dogs being housed and procedure without proper licensing (no current kennel or breeding license and many adult dogs without current rabies vaccinations), it is my hope that Fauquier County Zoning will consider granting a kennel license for no more than 12 dogs that would allow Mrs. Barrett to provide a higher quality of daily care and a responsible/ higher quality breeding program.

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