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Plea deal gives new leash on life

A group of dogs dubbed the ‘Rat Pack’ reside at the county animal shelter after their July rescue from a puppy mill.
A group of dogs dubbed the ‘Rat Pack’ reside at the county animal shelter after their July rescue from a puppy mill. Del Norte Triplicate / Anthony Skeens
 Dogs can now be adopted as animal cruelty case ends

They came to be known as the “B Street Dogs” — all 19 of them.

Last July, authorities raided a dilapidated building across from the Wastewater Treatment Plant on Battery Street and found several breeds of dogs held in makeshift kennels. Dachshunds, yorkies, bloodhounds, a mastiff, bull dog and shepherds were among those trapped in a windowless annex to the building, covered and circling in their own feces with little water and food.

A lack of ventilation helped create a stench to the place that was nauseating and stuck to clothing almost immediately upon entry.

Authorities suspected a puppy mill.

All of the dogs were transported to the animal shelter on Washington Boulevard and two people — Katherine Stone and Danny Bonner — were arrested and charged with 19 felony counts of animal cruelty. 

The dogs “were in various states of health,” said Ken Smith, county agricultural commissioner. “Most of them weren’t good.”

There’s MiMi the brown and white bulldog, with an underbite that almost reaches her nose who  goes into seizures if she isn’t exercised enough. She was weak when received and could only walk a short distance.

And Lily the black and white Louisiana Catahoula leopard dog who has antisocial problems due to a lack of human interaction.

Mertino is a black and brown Dachshund who developed a herniated disk that disabled movement in his hind legs. A cart was attached to his rear, allowing him to walk around powered by his front legs. 

After a month, Mertino began moving his hind legs and now he is walking around with the “Rat Pack,” a group of yorkies and another Dachshund that he shares a kennel with.

There is a shepherd who couldn’t walk at the time because his muscles atrophied from a lack of exercise, Smith said.

And five bloodhounds who suffered from crowds of mites in their ears; their eyes were almost puss-glued shut from infection. Underweight, their ribs bared through saggy skin.

All of the dogs have been traced back to either Louisiana or Arkansas. The two defendants had moved to Crescent City recently from Louisiana.

It was the largest group of dogs brought to the shelter in the past 20 years, raising the population at the time to 51 — the most the shelter has ever housed, at least in anyone’s memory.

“It placed a big burden on us,” said Smith. “We didn’t have enough room in the kennel.”

The kennel is equipped to hold 32 dogs, so the staff built outdoor kennels and covered them with tarp and placed doghouses in them.

“We did the best we could do to protect them from the elements,” said Smith. 

Then there was the effort to nurse them back to health. Most of the dogs were underweight, so “they needed a lot of food. They got twice the amount a normal dog would get,” said Smith.

Volunteers from the Humane Shelter spent weeks grooming, walking and giving the dogs “love,” Smith said.

All that extra work stressed the facility.

“Our job is to pick up stray dogs and it never stops,” said Smith. “Lord willing we got through it.”

Today, there are 42 dogs at the shelter.

“We’ve been over-capacity ever since these dogs came to us,” said Smith.

The amount of effort it took to rehabilitate the dogs added up to $16,953, a figure that has been doled out to the two defendants as restitution costs in a plea agreement accepted this week that reduced all 19 felony counts to a single misdemeanor of animal cruelty and relinquished ownership of all the dogs to the animal shelter.

“Our main interest from the beginning was the welfare of these animals; the animal shelter just like our jail is full and overflowing,” said District Attorney Jon Alexander. “The cost was close to bankrupting our animal shelter as well as the ability to take in other animals.”

Despite a mound of applications from local residents hoping to adopt the animals once they were brought to the animal shelter, no action could be taken because it did not have ownership. So the animal shelter had to continue to care for the B Street Dogs until the case against 58-year-old Bonner and 52-year-old Stone was resolved.

“Given the out-of-custody status of the defendants, it would have taken another six weeks to two months to proceed to trial,” said Alexander. “It’s not the pound of flesh I would have liked on the defendants, but it was in the best interest of the defenseless animals and that was my priority.”

Most of the animals can now be adopted, so the Humane Society has undertaken screening all of the applications that have poured in to find suitable homes for them.

“I don’t think there’s a mean dog in any of the 19,” said Smith.

The five bloodhounds are going to be sent to a rescue center in Sacramento to be rehabilitated further and receive surgery for their eye infections that have caused their eyelids to fold in against their eyeballs. MiMi the bulldog will receive medical attention to treat her seizures in the hope that she can be adopted one  day. And Lily the leopard dog  will be socialized until she is no longer afraid of humans, Smith said.

The original story about the raid of the suspected puppy mill can be read on the Triplicate’s website by typing “puppy mill” in the search field.

Reach Anthony Skeens at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

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