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Published January 06, 2014, 01:44 PM

Wheatland puppy mill owner gets 2 years probation, ordered to have no more dogs

FARGO – A Cass County judge has ordered a former Wheatland puppy mill owner to two years of supervised probation, during which he cannot have dogs nor work with them, in exchange for his guilty plea to animal neglect.

By: Emily Welker, INFORUM

FARGO – A Cass County judge has ordered a former Wheatland puppy mill owner to two years of supervised probation, during which he cannot have dogs nor work with them, in exchange for his guilty plea to animal neglect.

Darcy Darrell Smith, 51, missed his sentencing hearing in Cass County District Court Monday morning due to problems with his furnace because of cold weather, according to his public defender.

Defense attorney Gordon Dexheimer said Smith, the former owner of about 170 dogs seized last July by sheriff’s deputies after finding them matted, living in their own filth, and stuffed sometimes five to a kennel, “actually loves animals very much.”

Some of the animals confiscated by deputies had not been groomed in so long, they were immobilized by their own matted fur, authorities said.

Dexheimer said that Smith, during a recent cold, wet spring, many of his dogs had gotten sick, and while caring for them, hadn’t been able to sell the puppies as he usually did to area pet dealers.

“It simply got out of hand … it began to snowball on him with the animals,” Dexheimer said.

Cass County prosecutor Leah Viste asked Judge Douglas Herman to sentence Smith to 100 hours of community service, and expressed concerns Smith did not fully grasp the seriousness of his offense.

Smith entered an Alford plea last month to a single A misdemeanor count of animal neglect, saying that he agreed the facts of the case might lead a jury to convict him, but that he did not agree with all of the charges in the case.

A remaining five counts of animal neglect were dropped as part of his plea deal.

“He needs to understand that this can’t happen,” she said.

Herman denied the prosecution’s request for community service for Smith, but did grant their request that he pay a $2,000 legislative fee.

He also required that Smith undergo diagnostic testing for mental health and other conditions as part of his sentence.

Check back for more on this developing story.

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