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Over 130 dogs seized in animal cruelty investigation

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The Cass County Sheriff’s Office, in cooperation with the Pine River Police Department, the Animal Humane Society and Heartland Animal Rescue Team in Baxter, seized 102 dogs and 29 puppies from a Pine River business July 16 following a three- to four-month long county investigation that results from complaints.

“We had received complaints, and after an ongoing investigation we had enough probable cause to obtain a search warrant and that’s what got us where we were the other day,” said Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch.

A story by Paul Walsh with The Star Tribune alleges that the animals were seized from kennels owned by Deborah and Richard Rowell. In that story, Animal Humane Society investigator Wade Hanson said the dogs were living in wet conditions and one of the animals was found dead.

The Rowells’ attorney, Stephen Grigsby, said the animal was dead of natural causes related to old age, not mistreatment, according to the Star Tribune story. In the story, Grigsby said conditions at the kennel were constantly changing, and “Taking a snapshot out of this woman’s life ... gives a false impression of the woman that she is.”

The story also documents neighborhood complaints of wandering dogs, hazardous living conditions and suspicious noises at night.

There have already been people interested in adopting or checking the condition of the seized animals.

“We have gotten a lot of calls that people think they may be here at the shelter. We did not bring any back to our shelter,” said Donna Wambeke, HART executive director.

All of the animals were sent to the metro area where they will be held until the investigation into the case can progress. Until such a time, the animals will be kept safe but cannot be adopted. According to the Animal Humane Society, the dogs have been put into quarantine and cannot be approached or photographed at this time.

“The criminal aspect could dictate what happens there, so they’ll be held until we know where the investigation goes,” Burch said. “There’s still some leads to follow up and the investigation is still being conducted.”

Further details were unavailable pending further investigation. The Rowells are not making any comments at this time, according to a worker at the riding stables owned by the Rowells.

Anyone with information to share for this investigation is encouraged to contact the Cass County Sheriff’s Office at 218-547-1424.