Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Greg Zoeller Saves Puppies

Greg Zoeller with puppy. This week Attorney General Greg Zoeller closed down a puppy mill outside of Mauckport here in Harrison County.

The Corydon Democrat had a story about it in Wednesday's paper:

As a veterinarian readied a syringe with vaccination medicine, volunteer Nadine Allee of Valparaiso clutched a small, shaking, black-and-white Yorkie mix tight to her chest in the dark, cool basement of a warehouse in New Albany. After the dog received a shot, was weighed and had its ears cleaned, it was given deworming medication, scanned for a microchip and then sent to a cage.

"Another one down," Allee said, as another volunteer took the Yorkie mix away and handed Allee another canine.

The process was repeated over and over after workers with the Indiana Attorney General's office, Indiana State Police, Indiana Department of Revenue, the Humane Society of Missouri and the Humane Society of the United States of America converged on a puppy mill yesterday morning (Tuesday) in the 8600 block of Valley City-Mauckport Road near Mauckport to investigate alleged sales tax evasion by the property owner and her daughter.

Owning property collectively known as the Breezy Valley Dairy Farm, Virginia Garwood, 63, and her daughter, Kristen Garwood, 26, allegedly failed to pay at least $135,000 in sales taxes as part of a puppy mill business they operated from the elder Garwood woman's home.

In all, 240 puppies — living both inside and outside the residence — were confiscated and taken to New Albany, where they were sent through a triage-like area staffed by volunteers from across the region for possible future adoption at shelters across the country.

"It's not realistic for one or two or even three people to have that many dogs. We have 60 volunteers and we're overwhelmed, and we'll only have those volunteers for a couple of days," Anne Sterling, regional director of the Humane Society of the United States of America, said.

One dead puppy was found on the property; it was unclear how long the animal had been deceased.

State Rep. Linda Lawson, D-Hammond, a Humane Society volunteer, helped confiscate the dogs, which ranged in age from a couple of days to a few years.

Lawson, who was the author of the recently-passed Indiana HB 1468 (Puppy Mill Bill), said based on what she saw, the dogs' living conditions were "absolutely, positively" animal cruelty.

"Some dogs were covered in feces, their nails were 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch long, some had matted hair and sores in their eyes. Some dogs were sheltered from the sun, and some were not. The only water they had was yellow and nasty," Lawson said. "It was pretty bad."

Some of the dogs are believed to be infected with giardia, which is a highly-contagious gastrointestinal disease.

"We're proud to assist with the rescue of these neglected dogs and relieved they will soon be given a second chance at life," Sterling said. "I am hopeful that the recent passage of HB 1468 will allow us to crack down on cruel puppy mills, like the Breezy Valley Farm, across Indiana."

Although believed by Humane Society personnel to have been neglected, the dogs were officially seized as a result of failure to pay taxes.

At a press conference yesterday afternoon at Culbertson Mansion in New Albany, Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller said no criminal charges had been filed in the case, which is being pursued as a case of jeopardy assessment, which is a special immediate assessment of an alleged tax deficiency levied under federal and/or state law when a taxing entity believes a delay may jeopardize collection of the claim.

"We have not filed criminal charges at this point," Zoeller said. "It's an ongoing criminal investigation; however, it could eventually lead to charges."

The Garwoods possibly could face charges ranging from failure to keep and preserve records (a Class A misdemeanor) to Class D felony failure to remit sales tax, to two other Class D felonies, falsification of income tax records and failure to maintain tax records (Virginia Garwood claimed zero income on her 2007 Indiana individual income tax return). Because the business was never registered with the Indiana Department of Revenue, the Garwoods also could be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.

In addition to seizing 240 dogs, state officials ran forensics tests on computer hard drives and thumbed through paperwork in Virginia Garwood's side yard yesterday morning.

The attorney general's office was tipped off by consumer complaints after customers had allegedly purchased puppies from the Garwoods but, according to the search warrant, never were given a receipt and were always told to pay cash for their dogs.

The Garwoods allegedly sold their dogs for hundreds of dollars each. According to court documents, Kristen Garwood allegedly sold a male Yorkie Poo puppy to an investigator for $250, and another investigator paid $300 for a female Yorkie Poo.

On Jan. 30, Harrison County Animal Control Officer Bruce LaHue told state attorney general officials that he had attempted to visit Garwood's property but she had ordered him to leave.

In February, IAG Special Investigator Michael E. Smith was assigned to look into reports of a business selling puppies in violation of Indiana law regarding income tax, sales tax and business registration.

LaHue provided the attorney general's office with copies of advertisements from this newspaper as well as The (Louisville) Courier-Journal offering puppies for sale at the address matching Garwood's.

The Corydon Democrat's records showed that, at various times between and including April 2006 and April 2009, the Garwoods advertised for sale both adults and puppies of various breeds, including Boston terriers, Cockapoos, rat terriers, Yorkie mixes, Puggles, poodles, Australian shepherds and Border collies.

Indiana Department of Revenue records revealed that neither woman has remitted Indiana sales tax at any time. Further, neither one of the Garwoods nor Breezy Valley Dairy Farm are registered as a retail merchant in Indiana, nor have they registered to do business in the state as required by law. Failure to charge or remit sales tax and failure to keep and preserve sales-tax records are felonies under Indiana law. The offenses fall under the attorney general's jurisdiction.

EDIT: In case you are interested, Alan Stewart of the newspaper has also provided information about how to adopt one of the puppies:

According to the Humane Society of United States, once the dogs are ready to be adopted -- which will depend due to any illness or injuries the dogs may have as well as vary by shelter -- the dogs can be adopted by contacting the shelters individually. They are as follows:

New Albany Floyd County Animal Shelter -- (812) 948-5355

Humane Society of Kentucky -- (502) 366-3355

Humane Society of Missouri -- (314) 951-1562

Bloomington Animal Care & Control -- (812) 349-3400

Humane Society of Indianapolis -- (317) 872-5650

Humane Society Calumet Area -- (219) 922-3811

Humane Society of Northwest Indiana -- (219) 938-3339

Pet Refuge -- (574) 256-0886

Dauschund Rescue of North America

Thanks to everyone for your concern and questions regarding adoption of these dogs.